(L.A. Times High School Insider)
Westlake High School

Opinion: Small schools rule

February is a nerve-wracking time where seniors have finished their college applications and must wait until March for results to come out.

Whether your goal is to obtain a full ride to Harvard or major in biochemistry at Princeton, with the Ivy leagues having around an enormous 5% acceptance rate and with millions of stellar students applying from around the world, the stakes are high. Of course some are bound to get accepted but, for many, applying to elite colleges results in rejection after rejection. 

However, there is a much more affordable option that must be taken into consideration: small colleges. Not only are small colleges much more affordable, they also allow a deeper sense of individuality amongst their students. 

At Westlake High School, the school population is around 3,000 students with approximately 30 students per classroom. Ivy league colleges, however, contain anywhere from around 6,000 students (Dartmouth College) to over 30,000 students (Columbia University).

Many high school students fail to realize that this enormous demographic results in a lack of attention and connection with their professors; after all, lecture classrooms can contain as many people as music concerts. 

Small colleges on the other hand, such as Barnard College or Wellesley College, have only around 2,000 students attending, which allows for a student to ask questions, receive in-depth answers and have their work be more thoroughly evaluated by their professors. 

Furthermore, many small colleges provide a better chance for low-income students to attend college compared to an expensive elite college, through different grants and scholarships, lowering the official published price.

Because small colleges do not receive as much governmental funding compared to large colleges, they may have a higher official published price compared to larger colleges. However, more often than not, students applying to small colleges receive a substantially larger amount of financial aid, resulting in a lower price than would be at a larger school. 

According to Best Value Schools, The Cooper Union, with only around 900 students, “offers grants to more than half of its enrolled students based on financial need, lowering the price tag by more than $10,000 a year on average. Cedar Crest College in Pennsylvania offers grants to over 90% of its incoming students, lowering tuition by about $10,000 a year.” 

Although the financial aid is significant at small schools, many students and parents may worry that smaller universities do not provide as an enriched and valuable education as they believe large universities do — they may think, if larger universities are more popular then they must have better, educated professors.

Since small colleges concentrate on undergraduate degrees, there is more of a guarantee that students will be taught by a consistent few professors, unlike large universities; since large universities have an abundance of graduate and doctorate programs, “advanced degree students will act as teacher’s assistants and teach undergraduate classes to get the experience they need” in an article by Best Value Schools. “Taking a class taught by a professor instead of an inexperienced teaching assistant guarantees that you will receive a better education.”

Because large universities offer a wider variety of majors and degrees, students often recklessly pick their major without considering that once their major is finalized in their sophomore year of college, they must stick with it all of the college years. Whereas smaller colleges provide a more flexible and specifically designed schedule, where students can make necessary adjustments to fulfill their goals leading up to their possible career. 

Although the academic success is large at small colleges, many students prioritize sports and social life — from massive pep rallies to energetic football games to a multitude of clubs  — which are more frequently found at large colleges rather than small ones. This may be a drawback, but small colleges contain a very similar college experience with sororities and plenty of their own sports. 

According to CollegeXpress, an informational college website, “Plenty of smaller colleges hold their own even as DI schools, [with] fierce rivalries among many small schools. While only a few hundred fans may be cheering, they can have the same spirited intensity as thousands.” 

In this day and age, parents often want their children to attend large and prestigious colleges mainly because of the awe the name brings. While it is nothing short of amazing if you do get into the Ivy leagues, the disadvantages must be considered. 

If you are only attending a large university because of the prestige it brings, consider the benefits that small colleges offer: individuality, equal education, flexibility, financial aid and the list continues.