How to Define Your College Search Cycle 3

Size: Small School (Under 3,000)


  • Class sizes will typically be smaller, which allows for more interaction between students and professors. You will have more of an opportunity to ask questions and better understand the material.
  • You’ll get to know your professors well, and they will typically make it a point to learn your name and get to know you. They are typically more invested in teaching and seeing their students succeed since they don’t have the research requirements that large universities place upon their faculty.
  • Classes will be taught by professors, not teaching assistants. This means that you will be learning from experts in their fields who actually know how to teach.
  • You’ll have lots of help with advising, and your academic advisor will be able to focus on you since they will not have large sums of students to advise. This helps ensure that you stay on the path to graduation.
  • Most small colleges have a strong sense of community since the students typically see each other on a regular basis. This allows for an easier time at building friendships and meeting new people.


  • They do not offer as many majors as large universities.
  • There aren’t massive sporting events
  • They typically will not have the same resources as large universities.
  • Small colleges often do not have the best name recognition.
  • Greek life is not usually as popular as it is at large universities.

Examples: Holy Cross (pictured), Gordon College, Saint Anselm, Mass Maritime, Amherst, Bates, Assumption, Bowdoin, Colby, Lesley, Bryn Mawr, Connecticut College, Johnson & Wales, Lake Forest

Size: Medium (3,000-10,000)

A combination of pros and cons from the Small and Large schools. Not exactly a happy medium, but can have many of both features.

Examples: Gonzaga (pictured), Boston College, Brandeis, Brown, Fairfield, Harvard, Quinnipiac, Merrimack, American, Bucknell, Bentley, Creighton, William & Mary, Elon, George Washington, Marist, Marquette, Loyola Maryland, Providence, Pepperdine, Salve Regina, Santa Clara, Tulane, University of Miami, University of Richmond, University of South Carolina, Wake Forest, Villanova, Vassar

Size: Large (over 10,000)


  • You will be able to select from a wide variety of possible majors and various courses. This gives you the opportunity to specialize on a specific skill or take a wide variety of interesting courses.
  • The facilities at larger universities, such as research facilities and libraries, will typically be more updated and well-stocked then those of smaller colleges. Larger universities simply have more money than the majority of smaller colleges.
  • Larger research universities tend to attract distinguished faculty members who may be famous in their fields. This will give you the opportunity to work with one of these faculty members changing the shape of their area of academia.
  • They will typically have well-funded sports programs that are highly attended and anticipated. This is a major school spirit factor for many larger universities.
  • Larger universities will have a wide variety of student activities and organizations, which means there will be plenty of opportunities to enhance your academic and social life with extracurriculars.


  • Classes may be taught by teaching assistants and graduate students who do not have the experience of teaching.
  • It’s easy to become just a number in the school’s total number of students and not receive the help you need, especially when it comes to administrative needs.
  • Classes can contain hundreds of students with many distractions.
  • It is more difficult to shine since there is more competition for special opportunities.

Examples: Florida State (pictured), BU, Clemson, Northeaster, NC State, NYU, Michigan St., Miami (Ohio), James Madison, Texas A&M, Temple, Penn State, University of Alabama, UC Irivine, UCONN, University of Delaware, Louisville, University of Maryland, UMASS Amherst, UNC, UVA, University of Wisconsin, Virginia Tech

Type: Liberal Arts

"College with an emphasis on undergraduate study in the liberal arts and sciences. A liberal arts college aims to impart a broad general knowledge and develop general intellectual capacities, in contrast to a professional, vocational, or technical curriculum."


  • 93% of employers agree that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”
  • Focus on well-rounded education
  • typically smaller enrollement
  • emphasis on undergraduate education, rather than masters and doctorates
  • more classroom discussion based classes
  • few or less TA's and more likely to gain attention from faculty
  • less competitive to attain leadership positions


  • Can sometimes be categorized as mini high schools due to smaller setting and class size
  • Right out of college (age 21-25), the average annual salary for liberal arts majors is $26,272, compared to $31,183 among professional majors. At peak earning ages (51-60), the average annual salary for liberal arts majors is $66,185, compared to $64,149 among professional majors.
  • May be less name recognition

Example: Saint Anselm (pictured), Amherst, Haverford, University of Chicago, Vassar, Oberlin, Colby, Bates, Washington and Lee, Colgate, Boston College, University of Richmond, Bucknell, Lafayette, Colorado College, Skidmore

Type: University with Graduate School


  • Focus on research
  • large enrollment size
  • Graduate, Ph.D and professional education offered
  • National name recognition
  • Bigger athletics


  • Large lecture format classes and big classes
  • Use of TA's in many classes
  • Large campus made may students feel a sense of anonymity
  • May have to apply to a specific branch or program within the larger school as a whole

Example: Villanova (pictured), Lesley, BC, BU, Suffolk, Harvard, Yale, Tufts, Columbia, etc.

Type: Specialized - Arts, STEM, & Business


  • Standardized test scores may be less important than they would be at a more traditional school if an arts institution.
  • Creativity and the academic transcript will carry more weight. However, in most non-artistic subjects, good-to-excellent grades will be seen as a sign of maturity as opposed to being predictors of success in college-level courses.
  • Art and design schools ask students to declare a major and show your portfolio of when you apply.
  • Faculty at art and design schools tend to be more career-oriented and better connected. They are practicing artists. Quite likely they still work at their craft. Their professional credentials are more important than having a doctorate or scholarly bent.
  • The instruction at art and design schools lends itself better to small classes than larger lectures.
  • The career services professionals at art and design schools are more likely to be artists who understand the career issues faced by artists.


  • With the exceptions of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) and the North Carolina School of the Arts, art and design schools are private colleges, and they can be quite expensive.
  • Art and design schools tend to have lower endowments, which provide scholarship funds for their students.
  • It is more difficult to transfer out of an art and design school into a more traditional college or university. It is not unrealistic to expect the faculty at the more traditional school to consider the liberal arts courses to be too “watered down” to be credit-worthy.
  • Art and design school offer a smaller selection of majors and most are studio-based. There are fewer opportunities for free electives than there are at traditional colleges and universities.

Examples: Juilliard (pictured), Tyler School of Art, Massachusetts Pharmacy, Berkley College of Arts, Institute of Culinary Education, Le Cordon Bleu, Boston Conservatory,

Type: 2 Year College


  • Affordability- Usually less expensive per credit hour than 4-year colleges and can be an inexpensive way to take some of your prerequisite courses for your first year or two of college.
  • Location- You may not be ready to move far away from home after graduation. If you have a community college close by, it could be in your best interest to take a year of classes and commute from home.
  • Academic Regimen- Classes generally move at a slower pace at community colleges, than at 4-year universities. If you struggled through high school, this setting may be more helpful to your college success than attending a 4-year school.
  • Flexible Schedule- Many students don't realize that if they plan on working while attending school, community college is hands down, the best option. They offer far more night classes than other universities and more schedule options. The workload, unfortunately, is lighter than a state school or private university and attendance is not usually required.
  • Give students an opportunity to explore major options. Instead of spending thousands of dollars at a private university towards a major that you are less than sure of, consider attending a community school while you are making your decision. Classes cost less, so you will have the opportunity to explore interests that you might not have otherwise pursued.
  • Smaller Classes- The class size is surprising to most students because the tuition is so reasonable. While classes aren't as small as those of a leading private university, many have as few as twenty students. In a smaller class, professors have the opportunity to learn more about their students. Likewise, students will find their teachers more accessible and can get assistance when they need it.
  • Transitional- Countless numbers of college freshman transfer out after their first year of studies. Many return, some don't. Unfortunately, many of these students felt displaced and found that their expectations were not met by the university they attended. Attending community school gives students the opportunity to earn college credit while taking the time to select the 4-year institution that is right for them. Because there is little financial investment, most students are deterred from dropping their studies altogether


  • Academic Regimen- If you are an exceptional student, you may not feel challenged in community college courses. This can result in boredom and lack of interest in your courses. However, most community colleges have very high academic standards.
  • Commuter Campuses- Very few community colleges have on campus housing options like dorms or apartments. You will be responsible for finding housing and commuting to campus if you do not want to live at home.
  • Choices- While many community colleges have extensive course offerings, they simply do not offer as many as you will find at a 4-year university.

Examples: Dean College (pictured), Quincy College, Community Colleges

Setting: Urban

(located in the city)


  • Some urban campuses are spread throughout a city while others are self-contained within a city.
  • Many urban colleges offer off-campus learning experiences. These may include opportunities to explore the work world through cooperative classes and internships.
  • Urban colleges tend to attract culturally diverse students.
  • Students can find entertainment options — such as museums, concerts and plays — on and off urban campuses.
  • Cities usually offer strong public-transportation options.


  • Expensive. Both for off campus housing costs and general cost of living in a city. Transportation may come at higher costs
  • Security more of an issue, and may have more private facilities.
  • Little access to outdoor/nature activities as there is not as much green space in urban areas.
  • May lack traditional campus features like quads and ivy-covered buildings or the ability to quickly identify what buildings are apart of the campus.

Examples: Columbia (pictured), Georgetown, George Washington, Fordham, BU, NYU, Vanderbilt, UT Austin, UCLA, MIT, University of Chicago, Northeastern, UPenn

Type: Suburban

(in small cities, large towns or residential areas near cities)


  • Suburbs often combine some of the best features of urban and rural areas.
  • Suburban campuses usually offer access to nearby cities and to outdoor activities.
  • Suburban colleges are frequently self-contained, which can create a strong sense of community.
  • Suburban colleges often have connections to the towns where they are located. This can provide opportunities such as jobs and entertainment.
  • Public transportation may be available in addition to a college’s transportation options.


  • May need access to a car more so than at other campus locations
  • Combination of cons from Rural and Urban Campus

Examples: University of Maryland (pictured), American University, Babson, Bentley, Cal State, Butler, William & Mary, Emory, Ithaca, Lehigh, Le Moyne, Brandeis

Type: Rural

(located in the country, often near farms and wilderness areas and usually near a small town)


  • Most rural campuses are self-contained, with a majority of the students living on campus. This can increase a college’s sense of community.
  • Rural campuses can provide access to outdoor learning opportunities, particularly in fields like agriculture or environmental science.
  • Many rural colleges bring entertainment to their students and provide free events. Comedians and bands may perform on campus during college tours.
  • Most rural colleges provide on-campus transportation options, such as buses, for students


  • Not as many activities, students have limited options for social activities as they may have to travel far distances before finding non-campus events.
  • Fewer options for internships that are located near campus.
  • Less access to airports and highways
  • More limited shopping options

Examples: UCONN (pictured), Clemson, Bucknell, Colgate, Oberlin, University of Rhode Island, Virginia Tech, West Virgina

Location: Near Home


  • Saving Money: There’s no doubt that staying close to home will save you money in travel costs. Living at home and commuting to school would save you even more, but most students heading off to college want to live at the college as well. However, if you live at home, you’d save the expense of room and board, which could come to $8,000 to $10,000 a year, or approximately $40,000 for the whole four years. If you live at college, but it’s only an hour or three to drive home, then heading home for a weekend because you’re homesick isn’t a big deal. If you’re 3,000 miles away, getting home for a weekend would be possible, but prohibitively expensive. Figuring out finances is a big part of going to college, and facing the reality of your own personal finances is one of those necessary steps in growing up and becoming independent.
  • Familiar: If you live at your college, but it’s within a few hours of your home, you’ll have a sense of familiarity. Family and friends are close enough to lend support if necessary. When you’re not that far away from home, jumping in the car for a quick trip home for face-to-face time isn’t a huge problem. This extra level of comfort could make the transition to college life easier for you.
  • In State Tuition**: Attending a college in your own state means a lower tuition than out of state public colleges would charge. Colleges often have scholarships for in state students as well. Going to an in state college could cost around $15,000, an out of state college could cost up to $25,000, and attending a private college can run you $35,000 a year and up. In state tuition can make a big difference in the cost of college.


  • Familiar: If family and friends are close by, are you more likely to depend on already formed friendships rather than developing new ones? Will you rely overmuch on parental support when you should be experiencing the world on your own? The same familiarity that can be a help can also be a hindrance in that you might be too comfortable and reluctant to become more independent.
  • Depends on the Parents: If your parents are mother hen types and insist on visiting you all the time or having you come home more than you’d wish, then moving farther away might help establish more space for you to grow and develop. You will need that space to become the person you’re growing into in this exciting time of your life.

Example: UMASS Boston, BU, BC, Suffolk, Lesley, Babson, Bentley, Harvard, MIT, Brandeis, Emerson etc.

Location: Far from Home


  • New Experiences: Nearly all the people you meet will be new to you. You have a clean slate, so to speak, to find new friends and grow intellectually and socially. You have a new city and a new environment to discover and explore and gradually make your own territory.
  • More Independence: Your family and friends are now hours or longer away and you will have to adapt and become independent if you’re not already. While this can be intimidating and a bit scary, it is also exciting and challenging. Your new roommates will help you discover new facets to your personality that you weren’t aware existed.


  • More Expensive: Going to college out of state or across the country will no doubt cost you more than a college close to home. Unless you’re going for an unusual major offered only at one university, such as blacksmithing at Southern Illinois University, then staying in state makes more financial sense. Business administration, however, is offered nearly everywhere. You’ll have to spend more not only on tuition and room and board, but expenses for doing your laundry, eating outside of the college meal plan, travel and getting around town.
  • Travel Inconvenience: Besides the cost of a car, fuel, parking and/or airplane tickets, you’ll have to reckon with the inconveniences that come with travel such as cancelled flights, hazardous weather, waiting for security checks at the airport, lost baggage and so forth. No matter how often or seldom you do go home, it will cost you time, money and stress.
  • Culture Shock: While attending a college far outside your experience so far can be eye-opening and exciting, it can also cause some culture shock, especially if you come from Farmland, Minnesota and attend a large state college in southern California. Culture shock can cause stress and discomfort, which might distract you from your studies. Be wary about choosing a college too far out of your life experiences so far.

Examples: Trinity College of Dublin (pictured), University of Hawaii, UCLA, Santa Clara, NYU Abu Dhabi, John Cabot University (Rome), University of Oregon

Mission: Religious


  • Continuation of religious requirements in order to graduate
  • Strong sense of religious community and network
  • Different religious oriented campus activities that take place for example, examen, kairos/other retreats, mass
  • Breaks for religious holidays (ex. easter break)
  • More flexible food options for religious offerings
  • Access to multiple mass times


  • May be difficult if you come from a different religious background
  • May have less exposure to different values and ideals

Examples: Marquette (pictured), Fordham, Santa Clara, BYU, Fairfield, Villanova, BC, Pepperdine, Loyola's, Georgetown, University of San Fransisco, Gonzaga

Mission: Non-affliated


  • Access to all different types of religious services


  • Little to no religious emphasis
  • Little to no breaks for religious holidays
  • May not have dietary flexiblity
  • Less access to Mass times

Example: UMASS Amherst (pictured), any state school

Type: Private


  • Smaller class size: Even in larger private colleges, class size is less than that of public colleges. Students can get to know their professors and the professors will know the student by name. If you’re the type of student who enjoys the teacher student relationship, then take a good look at private colleges.
  • Student Body Cohesion: Private colleges encourage students to be active in the college community. This can include extracurricular activities such as sports or student clubs, and college events. Both students and professors exhibit a strong loyalty to their college.
  • Prestige: Many people consider private colleges and universities as more prestigious then their public counterparts, and some private colleges have national name recognition. Professors at private colleges are considered by some to have greater reputations than those at public colleges, although this isn’t always the case.
  • Merit Scholarships: Private colleges give out many merit scholarships, especially for students requiring financial aid. While the overall cost is far higher at private than at public schools, private colleges hand out some pretty hefty financial aid to students it deems worthy. Sometimes financial aid packages cover full tuition, room and board. For this reason, don’t cross a private college off of your list until after you speak with the financial aid office.


  • Hard to Get In: Private colleges are more selective of the students it admits. If your grades were not so great in high school, then you may get into a private college.
  • Cost: Private colleges cost far more than public colleges, sometimes as much as 10 times more. A year at a public college can run, say, $8,000, while a private college could top at $40,000 for combined tuition, room and board and fees. You know to talk with the financial aid folks, right?
  • Less Diverse: While public colleges and universities attract students from many states and overseas, private colleges admit a more homogeneous student body. If you’re hoping to make friends with kids from India, China and France, you may not find it possible at a private college.
  • Transfer of Credits: Public schools have made it fairly easy to transfer credits from one public school to another. Private colleges, however, use different crediting methods and you may find you may find that private college credits don’t transfer easily, meaning you may have to take certain classes over again at a new school.

Examples: Stanford (pictured), Harvard, MIT, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, Occidental, Duke, Notre Dame, UPenn, Tulane, Carnegie Melon, Colgate, Johns Hopkins

Type: Public


  • Ease of Admissions: Many students who aren’t quite top notch find it easier to get admitted to public colleges than to private colleges.
  • Employment Opportunities: If you’re one of the many students who need to work during your college years, then a public college might suit you better. More on campus positions are available through work-study programs and you will have the flexibility as a student to seek off campus employment as well.
  • Bustling Atmosphere: Generally, public universities and colleges have greater diversity in their student bodies, with students from many different states and nations. Extracurricular activities abound and many public colleges have a very active sports scene.
  • Programs: Public colleges can offer degrees in a variety of disciplines. There may be excellent liberal arts degree programs as well as dynamite electrical engineering degree programs.
  • Strong Academics: Public colleges attract teachers with strong academic backgrounds. While some people think highly of private colleges and attach more prestige to them, others hold equally positive views of public colleges. While most introductory courses are just that, higher level courses prove to be intellectually challenging for students, bringing out their best academic performance.
  • Cost: Since governments subsidize public colleges, the cost for students who live in state is less than private colleges. Many public colleges also give financial aid to students, though not as generously as private colleges.


  • Less One on One: Professors at public colleges may have hundreds of students at a time. Bring yourself to their attention during class by speaking up during discussions. Make appointments with them. You may need to make more of an effort, but rest assured it can be done. Many professors enjoy getting to know their students.
  • Getting Lost in the Crowd: At huge state universities, some of the shyer students may feel isolated and alone in the crowd. If you’re more at home in a small town than a large city, a smaller public college would suit you better.
  • Size of Classes: With large student bodies, classes in public colleges can be quite large, often a hundred or two students per class. Large lecture halls are often the venue for these classes. Some classes will be taught by adjunct professors or graduate student teaching assistants, and student contact with teachers and professors may be limited. However, if you need your professor’s attention to help you solve a problem, be sure and sign up for an appointment. You will need to work harder on fostering this relationship than you would at a private college.
  • Class Availability: Some public colleges are quite large if not huge. Classes fill up quickly, and students might not get all the classes they want. Register for the classes you want quickly and you should be able to get the schedule you want.

Example: University of New Hampshire (pictured), UNC, UVA, Rutgers, UMass, UCLA, University of Florida, University of Michigan, College of William & Mary, Georgia Tech, UCONN, Virginia Tech, Miami (Ohio), University of Colorado Boulder

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.