Perks of Going Small

5 Advantages of a Small College Experience

Growing up, I lived 15 minutes from the campus of a large university, and this fact colored my entire college search process. This meant that when I was a senior in high school, deep in the midst of many stressful choices, I envisioned myself attending a similar school. I honestly hadn’t given much thought to a small liberal-arts college because huge universities were all I had ever known. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to end up at a small school like Emory & Henry College, and I want to share the top 5 advantages that I have found of having a small college experience:

1. Community

I have never been more quickly accepted into a community than when I came to Emory & Henry. A strong sense of community was actually one of the leading factors that brought me to Emory & Henry because it was one of the first things I noticed while on a campus visit during my senior year. I was drawn by the friendly atmosphere and the tight-knit cohorts I saw in the honors program, and I’ve watched this sense of community continue to grow stronger throughout my time here. I think this has a lot to do with the size of Emory & Henry, as you are able to easily meet a diverse range of students and quickly find others who are interested in and passionate about the same things as you are.

 2. Everyone wants you to succeed!

At a small school, everyone—both your peers and professors—are so invested in seeing you succeed. Whether it’s upperclassmen who willingly stay up late into the night, reading and revising papers, because your cohort is nervous about submitting your first college essays, or it’s your professors consistently being willing and available to work with you, one thing is so evident - they will not let you fail. Because you’re a part of the Emory community, everyone cares about seeing you succeed, and they frequently go out of their way to make sure that you do. All you need to do is ask!

 3. Alumni Involvement 

Another benefit of the community offered at a small school is the involvement of the alumni in your learning and career goals. Even as a first year student, I’ve already had many opportunities to meet alumni who are connected to a wide range of interests and career fields. These alumni are always looking for Emory & Henry students of all ages to connect with internships or jobs, which is an extremely valuable resource to have in college. An example of alumni involvement in my own academic experience has been the opportunity to take an advocacy and lobbying class taught by alumnus Beau Blevins, who is a lobbyist for the Virginia Association of Counties. Through this class, my peers and I will research and address a particular public policy issue of our choice. At the end of the class, we will travel to Richmond and sit in on General Assembly committees to see policy development in action and connect what we’ve learned from our discussions in class. We will also have the chance to meet privately with the Speaker of the House, where we will be able to ask questions and interact with him, as well as many other members of the state legislature. This is a huge opportunity for me to be afforded (especially as a freshman) and I owe it all to the generous and committed alumni community offered at a small school.

4. You have the opportunity to design your own major!

Personally, I’ve found the ability to design my own major to be one of the most academically significant advantages of attending a small college. Right now, I am hoping to double major in political science and child studies. Since child studies is not currently offered as a major at Emory & Henry, I am working with several faculty members to create that major here and design the set of courses that would be required for it. This allows me to have a very individualized program of study and be able to place an emphasis on the specific topics within the major that I would like to focus on—something that conventional majors at larger universities don’t offer. The best thing about choosing this path at Emory & Henry is that self-designed majors are not an anomaly. All students are encouraged to follow their passions in creative ways, and one of the most effective ways to do so is through designing your own course of study.

 5. Classes

If you’ve ever gone through the college search process, you’ve probably heard numerous schools promise that at their school, “you’ll be a name, not a number”. I know it’s cliche, but any student at Emory & Henry will quickly tell you that this truly is the case here. I attribute this largely to the smaller class sizes available to Emory & Henry students. Many of my classes this semester have fewer than 12 students in them, which allows not only for students to know their classmates better, but also allows the professors to know each student individually. This means that every professor not only knows your name, but most also even know what major or field of study you’re interested in. Another advantage of attending a small college is the variety of classes offered. I’m currently taking three student-led/non-traditional classes in which my classmates and I get to choose the direction of the course. This has been such a unique experience and has truly challenged me to grow as a student and critical thinker.

Although a small school setting isn’t for everyone, I know that for me it has been an extremely beneficial and positive experience, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to attend a small college like Emory & Henry.

BY: Katherine Meyers ’19

Photo description: Emory & Henry alumni Amy and Beau with Honors Scholars Katherine and Rachel (left to right) at the Honors Homecoming Reception.