6 Things No One Tells You About Going to a Small College

In searching for a school that fits your needs and wants, there are many aspects to consider. If you’re thinking about applying to a small school, it’s important to look at the pros and cons.

Smaller colleges aren’t for everyone—just as large universities aren’t, either. While there are some more obvious aspects of small schools —smaller class sizes mean more one-on-one time with professors, there are fewer dining options, and so on—we’re here to let you in on some lesser-known truths about attending a small college. Here are six things no one tells you about going to a small school, from collegiettes who found out firsthand.

1. You will get to know everyone quickly

Naturally, at a small school, there are fewer students. This means you will start to recognize familiar faces almost right away. What no one tells you, however, is that by your junior or senior year, chances are good that you will know every single person in your class. Depending on the size of your campus, this phenomenon may occur as early as the first few weeks of classes.

“One thing no one tells you about going to a small school is the number of repeat faces you will see after about the first week of classes,” says Emily DiNuzzo, a senior at Pace University. “At first, you think there are so many people and then the entire world shrinks in a matter of weeks. Even if you don't know a person’s name, you know their face, someone else who knows them or maybe just some run of the mill gossip.”

The tight-knit community of a small college means that you will build strong relationships quickly. Be careful, though, because if any of these relationships end, you could be in for some awkward situations.

2. It’s hard to avoid people

If you get in a fight with your friend from class or break up with a SO that goes to your school, it becomes much more difficult to avoid him or her when you go to a small school. A more condensed campus means running into people over and over again, whether you want to see them or not. This is especially important to consider when it comes to dating your classmates.

“Tinder is not an option,” says Megan Wastal, a senior at Pepperdine University. “Chances are, if you see a guy on Tinder, you will also see him in the cafeteria 10 minutes later.” If you want to avoid the awkwardness, maybe think twice about flirting with that cutie who is in two of your classes. This is not always the case, of course. Relationships can definitely flourish at a small school!

Skipping class can also be tricky. “All of your teachers notice when you're not in class and are most likely friends with your other teachers,” warns Megan. This can be a good incentive for attending class, though—even when you don’t want to.

3. Being different can feel difficult

Small schools often have very distinct personalities. For example, Emerson College is well-known for its creative and spirited students. While everyone is unique in his or her own way, you will start to notice more and more similarities among the student body.

“Sometimes, depending on your school's area and typical demographic, it can be very hard to be different––whether that's your personality, your religion or any other unique detail of your life,” says Kristen Perrone, a senior at Siena College. “In my experience, nearly everyone is able to find friends similar to them but I think it's easier to feel discouraged about the way your personality is at a small school where everyone knows each other well.”

Kristen gives the example of being introverted but feeling pressure to invite as many people as possible to a party in order to make connections. Even if it isn’t easy, you shouldn’t be afraid to be you—especially if it means being unique.

4. School spirit is often expressed in nontraditional ways

While football games and fraternity parties may be the norm at large schools, small colleges often have different outlets for expressing school spirit.

“No one really goes crazy at the sports games,” says Megan. “The only people that attend are friends of the players, the rally crew that gets paid to be there and the opposing school.” Whether it’s an abundance of club sports or a large performing arts presence, you can definitely still find your niche on campus, though perhaps in a less traditional way.

If you are into watching sports, find out if you can film the games or help out the team as manager. Want to play? Try out for the team—and invite your friends to games! If you’re a natural leader who would rather spend time off the football field, consider starting an organization on campus or joining an existing chapter. From the school newspaper to debate team, there are plenty of options for every kind of interest.

Related: 6 All-Female Groups You Can Join if Sororities Aren't For You

5. It’s a short walk across campus

If you’re always late or notoriously bad with directions, a small campus can be a plus! You’ll pick up on the ins and outs of on-campus life quickly, and you can rest easy knowing you’ll always be able to get from one place to another in (almost) no time at all.

“The best thing to me about going to a small college is the ability to be able to walk to class when you wake up late,” says Stephanie Jackman, a senior at York College of Pennsylvania. At small schools, everything is often centralized, and it’s a quick trip from class to class, as well as to the dining halls, dorms, bookstore and library.

Keep in mind that if a campus with tons of big buildings and hidden hangout spots is what you’re looking for, you may not find that at a small school.

6. You will make your own kind of family

With fewer people in your classes, extracurricular activities and your dorm, you will definitely become close with other students and even professors. “When you get further along in your major, you practically know the people in your classes as if they were family,” says Stephanie.

If you ever need a recommendation letter or help with your resume, you’ll always have someone to go to. Plus, you’ll have close friends (or at least people you know) in every class. At a large college you may have tons of acquaintances, while at a smaller school you may have a few really good friends.

Every school has its own pros and cons and it can be difficult to generalize numerous small schools into just a few categories. Continue to do your research and make the choice that’s best for you. Wherever you choose your home for the next four years, we want you to be happy and to excel.