Finding the Perfect College — For You

Explores the many differences between large and small universities

Sullivan Building at Worcester State

By Rachael Berthiaume

Have you ever wondered if you picked the right college or university?

Doubt regarding your choice may be a sign that you were not asking yourself the right questions during the admissions process.

“We tend to gravitate towards what we know,” writes Loren Pope, founder of the website Colleges that Change Lives. “The college search should be a personal and introspective process for each student, allowing him/her the chance to think about the type of next step that makes the most sense.”

There is no one-size-fits-all college, and that is why there are so many different universities with such a variety of characteristics. Each has its pros and cons.

“I knew that I wanted to be an OT major, so the first thing I had to do was research schools that offered OT around me,” said Camryn Barry, a WSU freshman. “I chose Worcester State because I loved the campus and I knew I did not want to go to a big school.”

Even though it is early in the year, Barry said that she sees herself staying at WSU to further her education.

Amy Oliveria, who began school at WSU before transferring to Boston University, did not leave because of educational concerns. She described classes as being generally the same at both schools, but with a difference.

“At BU it’s very hard to get an A,” Oliveria said. “You have to work really hard and go above and beyond. You are pretty much doing homework all the time.”  

Boston University

Although WSU also has rigorous classes, Olivera was attracted to BU in part because it has the reputation of a competitive school. She also felt that WSU did not have the social opportunities she was looking for.

Not everyone craves or can handle what comes with a large university, though. Pope argues that the best colleges are small liberal-arts schools, and this rings true for people who need a contained learning environment and available faculty.

At a bigger school like UMass Amherst, that kind of setting isn’t always possible because it is more difficult for students to build relationships with their professors, said Henry Theriault, Vice President of Academic Affairs at WSU.

“One of the biggest drawbacks of what they call, ‘research one institutions’ is that they may be really good at doing certain kinds of work, but undergraduate students end up being not as well supported,” said Theriault. “At WSU people know who you are and there will always be someone to intervene and connect with.”

Ryan Belhumeur, who started at UMass Amherst and is going to be transferring to WSU in the spring, explained that although there are similarities between all these schools, one of the biggest differences is the learning environment. This is a huge factor in a college’s overall ability to provide its students with success.

“I was always good at big lectures because I could look the material up on the powerpoints and teach myself,” said Belhumeur. “But if it was something I couldn’t learn on my own then I had the option to go to class and learn directly from the professor.”

Since both small and large universities have desirable and undesirable qualities, there may never be one answer for the question, “What is the best type of college?” But as long as students have the freedom to make their own choices, they won’t need one.

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