Choosing a College: Big City or Small Town?
Author: Rhonda Manns, A2Z College Planning
Choosing a perfect school is about more than programs and classrooms; it’s also about the kind of environment the school resides in. Deciding on a school is not just about what lies on campus; it’s equally about what lies outside of campus.
Schools like Columbia, Georgetown or UCLA that sit in and around huge cities offer the prospective student an amazing number of opportunities – but don’t dismiss the small town university like Dartmouth or Cornell. When deciding on your ideal school, consider the strengths of big and small:
- There’s more to do in big cities and more to be distracted by. A place like Boston or Chicago offers the student more chances for entertainment, experience and employment than could possibly be sampled in four years. On the other hand, such things can distract you from your studies.
- The financial implications are different. Generally speaking, the bigger the city, the higher the costs, and rent in a downtown metropolis can be stratospheric. On the other hand, if you want to fly home for a holidays, it’s a lot easier to find cheap flights out of New York City than it is out of Ann Arbor. Your plans for residence and travel could have a lot to do with which is more affordable.
- Do you want to be a big fish or swim in a big pond? In a metropolitan campus there are an endless number of things to do, resources to draw from, and people to meet – but you’re also a small part of it. If you want the opportunity to really get to know your fellow students and the faculty, a small town school might offer more chances to get yourself known on campus.
- What do you like to do? If you’re the outdoorsy type it’s a lot easier to get into nature from a place like Penn State – literally a bike ride away from several protected forests – than it is at Temple, which, in the middle of Philadelphia, is a bike ride away from a lot more of Philadelphia.
- What are you going to do after your undergraduate degree? For some careers, getting close to the action as soon as possible can pay dividends later, whether it’s big finance in New York, public service in Washington, or high tech in San Jose. However, some fields are more geographically diverse, and if you’re planning on graduate school you might well want to switch schools after your undergraduate degree anyway.
Whether you end up in the Big Apple or Appleton, make no mistake that the city a school is located in shapes the school and the experience you’ll have there.