Happy Thursday, lads & lasses. Yesterday Jose wrote me a quick email that I almost put in my “DO NOT USE FOR THE BLOG” folder, but then I thought you all might have some advice to give him because the whole big school vs. small school thing is a very common issue.
And BTW, I realize that this whole site is kinda morphing into a much bigger and broader, “hard questions about college” site rather than just a site about scholarships specifically. It’s not what I pictured, but hey, I’m fine with it. I’m full of opinions and apparently you are too, so if you’ve got your own dilemma regarding college, finances, working, getting a job, home decorating, low-fat desserts or relationship advice, be sure to write in. (Everything from “home decorating” on is a joke, by the way. I know less than you about those three things, trust me.)
I have read a lot of the blogs you put up on the website and they are all very helpful but I have found myself having to pick between 2 schools I didn’t plan on going to but its come down to them for reasons.
I have to pick between the University of Florida or the University of Miami for engineering. I am lucky enough to have basically a full ride to either one so that’s not the issue.
Not a bad problem to have.
To me it seems all the negatives in one school are balanced out by positives and vice versa at the other. I like the strength of UF’s engineering but I am afraid of large classes and becoming a number at the school. Also, state budget cuts among other things worry me about UF.
Well, I wouldn’t worry about the state budget cuts too much if you have a full ride. Nothing’s beyond the realm of possibility when it comes to politicians, of course, but it would be an EXTREMELY unpopular move to renege on full-ride scholarships. And since politicians’ highest allegiance is to avoiding unpopular stances so that they can keep their offices and the power that comes with them, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over that part.
Regarding the large classes: Well, that just depends on what kind of guy you are, Jose. If you’re more of an independent worker type who doesn’t need a lot of personalized feedback, then large classes are your friend, in my opinion. This is the type of guy I am — I enjoy being a “number,” as you put it, because then I’m not burdened with attention I didn’t ask for (I know that sounds really anti-social, but I like to be in as much control of the attention drawn to me as possible).
I think I’m in the minority, though, as far as that goes. If you want easy personal access to your teachers, you’re probably not going to get a ton of that in your freshman-level courses at large universities. Lots of professors don’t enjoy teaching those courses in the first place, because, frankly, they don’t enjoy freshmen. There are tons of them, after all, and some teachers prefer dealing with students who are serious enough about their topic of study to have successfully passed through the weeding-out period of the freshman and sophomore years.
Don’t let that get you down, though. It’s just a fact of life. And if you’re persistent and motivated, you can get personal attention at large schools if you need or want it — it’s just going to be harder at a big school than it is at a small school.
On the other hand, Miami is a smaller program, I have no knowledge of their engineering besides that its small, great ratio, some really good professors like their new dean and all.
Well, you definitely need to get on that — learning about what kind of engineering program Miami has, that is. It’s a key piece of the puzzle. If the program sucks, you should probably eliminate it from consideration. If, on the other hand, it’s head-and-shoulders above the UF program, than that obviously should influence your decision as well.
I don’t know which one to pick, undergraduate research and academics are the most important to me. My goal is to go to MIT or Stanford for grad school.
any help would be great!
If undergrad research and academics (by which I assume you mean program rigor) are your priorities, then yeah, you need to do some more investigating of both programs and find out which is stronger. Email professors at each school. Use Facebook to find students at each school who are in the engineering program and ask them what they think (they are probably your most valuable source, since they are living the exact life that you’ll be living if you attend that school).
Honestly, I think you should also put your mind on the social factors of large school vs. small school as well (and also public vs. private, since Miami is private), and traditional campus vs. urban campus.
UF has about 55,000 students vs. Miami’s 15,000 students (and 15,000 is not exactly a small school in my mind — I’d call it a mid-sized school, but that’s just my personal perspective). But even at that, there are going to be some big differences in the campus culture. I’m going to rely on the readers to give you the particulars since I’ve been out of grad school even for 11 years, and the biggest school I ever attended was Missouri at 30,000 students.
But here are a few things that come to mind. At a larger school, there are more clubs, activities, sports, etc., to get involved with, probably (you won’t be studying 24/7. I hope not, anyway). You may feel part of a really large and cool community — or you may feel isolated if you don’t fit in there. The more people at your school, the more people, cultures, perspectives you’ll run into. Maybe. Then again, at a school as large as UF, there are so many people there that you’ve probably got decent-sized subcultures of interest that make it feel VERY much at home despite its small size.
And you’re in Gainesville, which is a small city that’s basically sustained by UF’s presence. The town has a rich history, but honestly, Gainesville isn’t terribly well-known outside of Florida for much other than being the home of UF. Miami, on the other hand, is an established international city with more varied cultures than most cities in the U.S., let alone Gainesville. “The U” is a relatively small (but important) part of the city as a whole.
And Miami’s a private school, so your student demographic is probably going to skew a little bit wealthier than UF, the “school of the people” as it were. If you’re a working-class or middle-class kid, you’ll probably find more people from your background at UF.
I’m not saying anything mentioned above is better or worse than the other — it’s just all stuff you have to consider based on what you like and what makes you feel comfortable.
(UF and Miami people, help me out here — you’re the ones who know best…)
BUT, while Jose’s dilemma involves University of Florida and the University of Miami, lots of states have a similar situation. There’s UNC and Duke in North Carolina, USC and UCLA in Los Angeles, and tons of other examples that you can tell me about in the comments section.
So, my generic advice to Jose is to consider all angles. But it’s been a while since I’ve been pounding the pavement on the campus every day, so please let him know what you think below.
Thanks all. I’m off to cook lunch. And by “cook,” I of course mean microwave. Have a good night!