The largest public high school in America (Brooklyn Technical High School) has roughly 8,000 students. While that may seem big, it has nothing on the several universities that enroll 15,000+ undergraduates. Many incoming freshman attending a large college are feeling overwhelmed at the size of their college with fears of losing themselves in the huge crowd of people. Big universities often get a bad reputation for large student to faculty ratios, lecture classes with over 400 students and a lack of individualized attention from professors, advisers and counselors.
Small colleges definitely have an advantage when it comes to individualized attention and familiarity with the people on campus, but large universities have many advantages such as a larger selection of classes, more majors to choose from, numerous clubs and sports, state-of-the-art facilities and a larger alumni network.
If you want to find the small college experience at your big college, read on to find out how you can distinguish yourself and make even the largest universities more intimate.
1. Freshman Seminars
Although not every college offers freshman seminars, most do, especially large universities. Freshman seminars are small, low-stress classes that vary in structure and topic. Some involve the reading and discussion of a common book or other piece of media. Some are more targeted at helping students transition from high school to college while others focus on a topic such as a current event or philosophical question. Check out your college website to learn about what freshman seminars or other first-year experience programs your college offers. They are a great way to meet new people, connect over the discussion of a common topic and enjoy a small class.
2. Get to know the campus.
If possible, go to the campus over the summer and find out where all the classrooms, libraries, student centers and dorms are. Being familiar with the campus will make the college much less intimidating and not quite as big. Ask older students about shortcuts and find your favorite spots.
3. Join clubs, study groups or sports.
Clubs, study groups and sports are all great ways to meet new people and create a small community. Joining clubs, such as an academic honor society or music group, can introduce you to fellow students with common interests and make you feel more valuable to the campus. Study groups help you get to know your classmates better as well as provide a small environment to discuss classes. Sports are another way to meet people, get more involved on campus and represent your school.
4. Take advantage of office hours.
College professors will offer office hours, during which students can come in and ask whatever questions they have. This is the chance to clarify something from a lecture, get to know your professor better or receive individual help. Sometimes this will be the only chance to really talk to a professor. Just remember to come in with a specific problem and be respectful of other students hoping to get help.
5. Sit in the front.
If you are in a big lecture class, get there early and sit in the front. Professors are more likely to interact with students in the front of the classroom and it also makes it easier to listen, pay attention and ask questions. Sitting in the front of a lecture hall can also make the space seem smaller and more intimate.
6. Seek out opportunity.
High school counselors have about 500-1000 students to worry about, but college counselors at large universities have to deal with several thousand students all trying to meet different requirements based on college and major. Any individualized attention or hand-holding students received in high school will not exist. Instead, learn to take initiative by visiting career centers, checking out bulletin boards, talking to older students, reading the college newspaper and seeking out opportunities both at the school and the local town. If you are hoping to obtain an internship, extra help with school, scholarships or a spot in other programs, you must stay on top of school events.
7. Participate in campus events.
Attending campus events are a great way to stay on top of school news and available opportunities. It will also help you feel more connected to your school. Regularly check the school website for upcoming events such as special lectures, info sessions on internships or studying abroad, career fairs or community outreach events. Attending sports games, school performances and student showcases are also a great way to show school spirit and feel like of the college community.
8. Get to know your roommate, RA and other dormmates.
Become familiar with your built-in community by getting to know your roommate and other people on your dorm floor. Many dorms host events and social nights throughout the year and these are a great way to get to know your neighbors. Your dorm can become a home and a place where you know and feel comfortable with everyone.
Making your large college feel small is all about finding smaller communities within the big one. Fortunately, big colleges are full of student resources, clubs, sports and smaller programs. You must be willing to seek out these opportunities, but the reward will be great for those who do. Also remember that large class sizes exist primarily in the lower division classes and once you become more involved in your major, there will be plenty of small classes and interaction with the professor. When you arrive at your college in the fall, jump into everything the school has to offer and get involved in everything you can.
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