Why I Love UE'S Size
When I was looking at colleges, I knew that I really wanted to go to a small school. Now, I know that this choice isn’t for everyone, but for someone as introverted and intent on personal relationships as I am, the thought of going to a huge school was absolutely overwhelming. And I do not at all regret my decision. Although there are a few advantages one tends to lose when going to a big school (with the crazy amounts of funding these often have), I love UE’s relatively small, intimate size—it leads to a unique, far more personal experience than otherwise.
For one, you’re not anonymous. Before coming to college, I’d heard stories of freshman seminars with 120 students and where the professor never bothered to learn anyone’s name. That doesn’t happen here. Within about a week of class, professors almost always learn students’ names, and often more—almost everyone knows I’m from Minnesota, for example, and, within my major, the interests and focuses that I have. It helps that most classes I’ve been in have had about 20-25 students tops. And even in my biggest class, a bio lecture with around 40 students, the prof still knew everyone’s names. In fact, when I’m walking around campus, I occasionally run into professors that I had two or three years ago, and they still say hi and remember me, and I them—it feels personal, in a good way.
And this leads to developing actual relationships with staff. It feels like my professors want me to learn, and they’re willing to do a lot of work to help me do well. For example, this fall, there were no literature classes (my major) that I really wanted to take—I had taken basically everything already. So I went to my mentor and asked if we could do an independent study in the topic I want to specialize in in grad school, and not only did she say yes, but she was incredibly gracious in the amount of time she put into both the class itself, and helping me with the grad school application process. Although that particular class is done, I still go up to her office frequently to ask questions about class, my writing, or academic life in general, specialized attention that would be hard to get if I were one of fifty students she was juggling. When I went to Harlaxton, my German professor was willing to run two classes with me via Skype, and once, when the class time didn’t work for me, met me on her own time so that I could still do the work. Another professor, when he heard that I had gotten some not-so-excellent news from my dream school, pulled me aside before class and gave me the best pep talk I’ve ever had. These relationships with professors are probably my favorite thing about UE, and arise from its small size (and amazing staff).
Not only are the professors rooting for you, but the staff is as well. Academic advising, though a small department, puts in heroic amounts of work. Tutoring is always available for people who need it, and places like the Writing Center (where I’m currently writing, as it were) are here to help. While the quantity of resources might be smaller than at a huge school, you can always get personal help when you need it, rather than having to wait for thirty other people to be helped.
On a more personal note, massive crowds of people really stress me out. I love the smaller campus (and a smaller physical campus means I can get from my apartment two blocks away to any class in ten minutes) because get to know more people well, and feel less lost in the crowd. From my very first week freshman year, I’ve developed amazing friendships, ones that have been lasting, and, while I’m sure I could have made them elsewhere, this environment made it easier for me to find “my people.” I’m probably going to be heading to a big state school for my graduate work next year, and, while I know that it will be okay and I’ll learn to deal with its size (the fact that graduate programs are small definitely helps!), I’m so grateful to have started off at a place where I am much more than a student number.