When it Comes to College, Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Aaron Schnoor
4 min readJan 8, 2020

A student’s perspective on choosing smaller schools…

Image by delfi de la Rua on Unsplash

Although I have fond memories from my senior year of high school, my recollections from the college admissions process are anything but pleasant.

Like many students, I had only a vague notion of what I was looking for in a college. And for a person who is already indecisive, the fact that there are a wide variety of options didn’t make it any easier.

The National Center for Education Statistics lists over 4,000 degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the United States. With that many options, there might not be a clear choice for students. There wasn’t for me — I created list after list of different colleges, ranging from the big to the small, the elite to the practically unknown.

I even created an excel spreadsheet to rank the colleges I planned on visiting, including such variables as the size of the campus, the amenities offered to students, and even the meals offered at the school’s dining hall.

At many times I felt that I was drowning in an ocean of options, with no safe pick in sight.

When I started looking at colleges, I immediately gravitated toward the larger, more prestigious schools. I assumed — somewhat correctly — that the largest schools would have the most to offer in terms of extracurricular activities and opportunities for students.

I also dreamed of attending one of the eight Ivy League universities, thinking it would give me a head start in the professional world. I researched Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, marveling at the venerable histories of each renowned institution. I maintained that attending those universities would unlock a golden door into a bright, successful future, propelling me past my peers who had chosen smaller, less-famed colleges.

Once I began touring different universities, those early perceptions shifted immediately. I expected to find strong, vibrant communities at the larger schools, but I found the strongest communities at the smaller universities. It makes sense, of course — for larger institutions, a student can easily blur into the crowd, becoming just one out of tens of thousands. For the smaller counterparts, it may not be so easy to blend into the…

Aaron Schnoor

Wealth Management Professional, Occasional Writer