50-50 Highlights: Reasons to Choose a Small College

small ball outweighing a large ball on a balance representing benefit of small collegesThe argument over which is better, large universities or small colleges, is essentially the big fish in a small pond or little fish in a big pond debate. Ultimately, the fish is the same size, it’s more a matter of where the fish will thrive. Having already discussed the advantages of a large university, I think it’s only fair to go over the reasons to choose a small college.

The Personal Touch

Attending a small college means you’re likely to never have a class with more than 50 students or worry if there will be enough students to “make” the class.  You can ask the professors questions in class instead of during office hours or just maybe during one of the several times you’ll run into them on campus. And while not always appreciated, the student can expect the professors to be asking them questions in class as well.

Students who end up taking multiple classes with each other during the year, develop a strong sense of community, and can find it easier to make friends. Faculty will actually recognize students who have taken more than one their classes and can provide personal guidance and feedback. Students at small colleges can usually pick from multiple professors for recommendations and support in whatever they choose to do after they graduate.

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Less Competition

Some of the overlooked benefits of small colleges can be found outside the classroom. There’s less competition for leadership positions in the various student organizations. There are more opportunities to start new organizations since not as many exist to begin with.

At most small colleges, students also don’t have to compete with graduate students for research opportunities or even assistantship positions. Lawrence University actually pairs students with alumni scientists at other universities.

Perhaps most importantly, there is less competition for merit aid. This occurs on a more macro level. The reality is that the majority of colleges in the country are small. However, most students prefer larger schools. Therefore, smaller colleges are more likely to offer merit scholarships to entice students to enroll on their campuses.

Custom Learning Opportunities

Since the number of courses can be limited, faculty encourage students to do independent study classes to pursue their areas of interest beyond what is listed in the course catalog. Just because something isn’t listed doesn’t mean it can’t be studied, including at “graduate” levels. My son was part of a seminar organized by a friend that consisted of four students and two professors to study Clausewitz. Customized majors are common.

The list below contains private 50-50 colleges with less than 3,000 full-time undergraduates and public 50-50 colleges with less than 5,000 full-time undergraduates. As usual, the five-year graduation rate is used for public schools and the four-year rate for private schools.

Smallest 50-50 Colleges


  1. […] These are all reasons why students are attracted to large universities which can provide an excellent education. Of course there are negatives but the point of this post is to list the largest 50-50 schools and why you might want to attend them. I don’t see much point in listing them and then telling you why you don’t want to go. (I have done a post on the Benefits of Small Colleges.) […]

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