Too Big. Too Small. Just Right: Picking the College Campus That’s Perfect for You

What College Campus Environment is the Best Fit for You?

A particular school might not make much of an impression online or through its viewbook, but once a student is there for a visit, it could surge to the top of his or her list.

While financial aid and academics are important, the campus vibe should feel right for the student as well. A student who wants the intimacy of a small school won't feel comfortable on a campus of 50,000. Someone who wants to see the world outside Detroit might not find Wayne State University or even other in-state universities desirable choices. On the other hand, staying close to home could be a plus, ruling out options more than a one-to-two-hour drive from home.

CharMaine Hines, vice chancellor for academic accountability and policy at Wayne County Community College District, notes that some high school students might not be ready to jump immediately into an environment where they might be "swallowed up" by large lecture halls with hundreds of students in one class. Smaller class sizes and faculty who are understanding of nontraditional students or students with greater academic need are among the benefits of starting at a community college, making it more likely such students will progress toward a four-year degree.


For student Kayla Cockrel, the energy of attending school and reporting on happenings in Midtown made Wayne State's location a plus. She didn't know if she'd find that same energy 1 1/2 hours away in East Lansing at Michigan State University. She also decided to live on campus in one of the school's residence halls, a growing choice among Detroit-area students who want to attend WSU as non-commuter students to get a residential experience in an urban environment.

Despite having more than 25,000 students, WSU felt "intimate," Cockrel says.

"I didn't think I'd feel comfortable at a larger school," she says. "The class sizes are smaller, there's more staff to help students learn and grow as they progress through college. … I think I made a good decision."

Remember: If you prefer a smaller environment, don't get scared away from a large university. Most offer residential programs or honors colleges that provide a school-within-a-school feel. Suddenly, an institution of 30,000 people becomes a school of 1,000, providing that personal touch and specialized attention that makes a student feel like less of a number.

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