Benefits of Attending a Small University

Small Univeristy

Unlike most of my friends I graduated high school with, I go to a very small university. It’s a place people never hear about, and until I went searching for my perfect educational match, I hadn’t either. There are times I feel looked down on, as if my degree won’t be worth as much as ones given out by well-known universities. Luckily, I have come to realize my degree will be worth just as much – that I’m receiving a quality education at my “no one’s-ever-heard-of” college. There are various benefits of attending a small university. Before you overlook a small university, here are a few benefits to consider:

Personal Classes

Every professor knows my name within a couple weeks of the semester starting. That’s because we have small classes with a 30 student maximum.  At bigger universities, attendees sit in a lecture hall with over 50 students for three hours a day and are never called by their name. Smaller classes are beneficial, especially for learners like me who prefer group discussions over hours of straight lecturing. Getting to know your professors in a more personal setting also makes it easier to approach them with any questions or concerns about the course. Nothing’s more awkward than asking a question half way through the semester and the professor asking, “And what’s your name again?”

Strong Advising System

You will quickly get to know your academic advisor. Similar to the attention you receive from professors, they will actually know your name and agenda instead of referring to you as “another science major”. You won’t have to go into every meeting and repeat your situation for the hundredth time. They remember who you are! This is extremely beneficial and will help with your academic planning.  Also, I’m continuously getting emails from my advisor throughout the semester. They frequently check up on you, making sure you’re doing well. It all adds to the more personal aspect.

Getting Involved is Easier

Joining teams or clubs at larger universities can be very intimidating. At smaller colleges, it’s significantly easier because there aren’t as many people in a club. Once you’re a member of a smaller club, you’ll find everyone’s contributions are ultimately more meaningful. Everyone becomes an important part of the team because there are less people to fill positions and work on projects. In addition, student groups are easier to reach out to and they provide quicker responses. At a small university, you won’t feel like an outsider peering in.

Lower Tuition

Last, but certainly not least, is the lower cost of tuition. Large universities could potentially charge over 40 grand per year! Smaller schools are typically less than 20 grand per year.  Attending a smaller school gives students the potential to have less student loan debt – if you’re lucky you may not even have any- and still receive a quality education. Lower tuition rates also makes receiving a higher education more financially obtainable. If you’re career requires a masters or doctorate, you may want to begin your journey at a smaller school.

The next time someone has never heard of your school or is surprised it’s so small, don’t be discouraged! There are many advantages to smaller classes and club sizes. Regardless of size or notoriety, it’s always best to attend a school that meets all your needs, both educationally and financially.

Keeping in Touch Over the Summer

It’s summer break! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you’re ready to make the most of it with your friends when it hits you… They’re all scattered across the four corners of the earth. Going to school with diverse people from different locations is great until it’s time for everyone to go back to their hometown. Missing the company of your friends is a struggle we all face over summer break. But never fear! Here are a few tips for keeping in touch over the summer:

Texting

For all the think-pieces written about how texting is killing our generation, overall it’s a positive thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should be texting your friends from school on your phone all the time. That’s a recipe for missing out on life. But some people anxiously feel they need to have a purpose for texting their friends before they can push send. However, receiving a text from your mates is almost always a welcomed surprise. If something reminds you of someone, shoot them a text! See a billboard for their favorite band? See that one food they love? See a friend from home you know they’d get along with? Shoot them a text! It’s easy to keep in touch by texting, But even better than a text is…

Snapchat

Snapchat, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of staying in touch over the summer. Snapchat will let you share what’s happening in your life, live and directly to your friends. They’ll be able to see your face, the world around you, your friends from home, and anything else you can find! The app includes great filters for making any occasion into a fun episode featuring your life. The platform is perfect for random, unpolished moments as well. When it comes to quick ways to show someone you’re thinking of them, you can’t go wrong with sending a snap!

Skype

We all know skype has some drawbacks, but even the most ardent critic of the program has to admit – it’s a wonderful free tool for keeping in touch with people. Skype is great for limiting data  usage when you’re connecting with a friend during their international vacation. Unlike Snapchat, there isn’t a limit on the length of video you share. Instead, you can actively video conference your friends anywhere in the world. Schedule a time each week (or more/less often, depending) and video conference with your friends for a bit. Texting is great, but actually seeing a person’s face and hearing them talk does wonders for strengthening a friendship.

Doing the same stuff

During the school year you have plenty to talk about with your friends. Unfortunately things change over the summer and once you’ve told each other how your week’s been, conversations can get a bit slow. The best solution to this is planning to do shared or similar activities, individually. You both might read the same book, watch the same TV show, or see the same movie! It gives a quick and easy topic to jump back to when the conversation gets a bit slow. In addition to discussing your experiences, you’ll have an opportunity to talk about and plan which activities you’d both be willing to try. Who knows, they may suggest something you’ve never thought of before!

Not having your friends around during summer break can leave you feeling lonely. Of course, nothing can really beat seeing someone in person, but hopefully these tips encourage you to use the technology you know and love to stay connected. On the upside, August is only a short three months away!

Delaying Graduation is Okay…I Promise

Delaying Graduation

The day I found out I would not graduate on time is forever ingrained in my memory. I sat there, listening to my academic adviser tell me I needed an extra semester or two for finishing my degree. My heart dropped. I was in such disbelief about delaying graduation, I began laughing in response. My mind raced with doubt. I worked so hard, why is this happening to me? Could she be wrong? After much denial, I grew to accept my new date. Like me, you too may hear these words at some point. If that moment comes, here’s why you should also accept your new date.

Going at Your Own Pace

Not every student can take five classes a semester and go to school all day, Monday through Friday. Some students are only able to take two night classes a semester, and that’s okay. Earning your degree at your own pace nothing to be ashamed about. It is important to know what works for you and to use that knowledge to your advantage. If you are the kind of person that can obtain a 4.0 taking three classes a semester, but will earn a 2.8 taking five classes, only take the three classes. Graduating with a 3.8+ GPA after six years looks better than rushing through in four years and graduating with a 2.8. You will eventually get there. For now, don’t stress about delaying graduation. Take your time and do what’s best for you!

Figuring Out Yourself

Like many other students who take more than four years to earn their degree, I changed my major which pushed back my graduation date. When I first graduated high school, I was pressured into chosing a major that would make me the most money. The pressure came from everyone- my parents, other relatives, and even my friends and their parents! I let their opinions influence me. I started college off as a veterinary science major because I knew it paid well. Well guess what? I hated it! I remember being more miserable than I have ever felt. When I thought about changing, all I could see were shrinking dollar signs. Even when I built up the courage to get out of the veterinary medicine field, I couldn’t let go of the pressure to shoot for a high paying field. In my mind, science fields made the most money, so I changed my major to something else science related. After two more miserable years as a science major, I realized my happiness is the most important factor. I decided to start over, as an English major no less. Even if it meant graduating late, at least I knew who I really was. College is full of trial and error, and one of those trials can certainly be choosing your major.

Adding a Minor

Graduation dates can often times get pushed back due to adding minors, especially if you add them later in your college career. Do not let this discourage you from adding on a minor. A minor is typically equivalent to an additional full semester and that’s okay. Minors tend to be a great thing to “fall back” on and add value to your degree. If it’s something that strongly interests you, add it. If it will enhance your professional career, add it. If it makes you happy, add it. There is no need to have absolute justification for broadening your studies and enhancing your degree with a minor. Don’t miss out on a more fulfilling collegiate experience simply because you’re worrying about delaying graduation.

Whether you graduate in 4 years or 5, after graduation you’ll have 20+ years to utilize your degree. The timing of when you graduate will have little affect in grand scheme of things, but your chance to learn is now. Forget about social pressures or stigmas. Do what’s best for you, always.

 

Transferring Schools: Should you, or Shouldn’t you?

Transferring Schools

Transferring schools. If these two words are causing an internal struggle, I’m here to help ease your decision fatigued brain. While transferring schools is a big step and should be carefully considered, I’ve laid out some of the largest reasons to consider and created a simple method for deciding.

The Pros and Cons to Transferring Schools

Let’s not kid ourselves, transferring schools could be awful. There are certainly downsides, including:

  1. Credits not transferring – There’s no guarantee your new school will accept your current credits. This may cause you to fall a full semester (or more) behind, delaying graduation.
  2. Increased debt – Between higher tuition rates, moving expenses, and higher living costs, your new college may leave you even more in debt.
  3. Leaving familiarity – There’s a sense of rightness found in friends and familiar landmarks. Having already left home once, leaving again could lead too feeling a sense of buyer’s remorse.
  4. Being the new kid – Incoming freshman experience the newness of college as a group, quickly establishing friendship circles that may last a lifetime. Even if you’re a social butterfly, it’s sometimes awkward to work your way into a friendship circle that’s already established.

But there are positive reasons people transfer, including:

  1. “Upgading” schools – You’re dedicated to your studies, but your college seems focused on weekend recreation. Upgrading to a more challenging school sounds appealing.
  2. Discovering your passion… is at another school – Finding out your preferred major isn’t available at your college is a crushing blow. It might be worth packing your bags.
  3. Personal growth – Your school is alright, but it’s feels like high school. You expected to blossom in college and lately it feels like you’re stagnate.

Deciding if Transferring is Best

We established the pros and cons of transferring, but when should you actually move forward with it? Well, I have a patented traffic light system to help you decide.

Green light – Transfer right now

  • Your school not only doesn’t offer your desired major, but it also doesn’t have the department which would house your dream major!
  • You chose your current school because of it’s prestige. However, it’s quickly racking up your student loan debt beyond what you might be able to repay. In many cases, employers aren’t concerned with how prestigious your college is. It’s time to make a change to a more affordable education.
  • You absolutely despise everything about your current school, from the academics to your so called “friends”. Cut your losses early and switch to a more suitable college.

Yellow light – Whoa there cowboy, let’s think about this first

  • You haven’t found a peer group or anyone you connect to- Yes, that is bad, but it’s possible you haven’t put yourself out there enough. Try joining a new club, who knows!
  • Your school doesn’t have the major you want, but it does have a vaguely similar one – Yes, I know chem and organic-chem aren’t the same thing. However, you may want to contact potential future employers to find out if this really makes a difference in your field. If it doesn’t, this be a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side.”

Red light – Hold off for now

  • It’s the first few weeks of school and you hate it – Everyone can feel awkward or even awful the first few weeks. Allow some time for adjusting to your new lifestyle.
  • You feel graduation from a more prestigious school will increase your earning potential –
  • You really hate a specific class – All students face a challenging class in college. Whether it’s the professor or the content, learning how to overcome obstacles is an essential life lesson.

Transferring schools is a personal choice you should think carefully about before making a decision. It’s a semi-permanent choice that causes drastic changes in your life. Many people will have reasons to sway your decision, but remember it’s always up to the person transferring to chose.

Don’t Regret Missed Opportunities

opportunities

“Don’t regret missed opportunities!”

The number of times I’ve heard some version of this phrase throughout my four years as an undergraduate is immeasurable. For a while, this phrase seemed about as cliche as any. I understood what it meant, but I didn’t quite understand the gravity of the saying until this past semester.

Four years seems like a long time, but as a college student, rarely is this free time. When you’re not in class, you’re studying for class. When you’re not busting your butt for school, you’re likely partitioning any remaining time for either sleep, social life, or extracurriculars. The opportunities to take a step back and reflect on what’s happening in the moment are sparse. College flies by and it’s often hard to see it passing by.

Nearing graduation, I felt upset with myself for not doing as much as I could. I felt I missed out on a lot of events! I never saw a Pittsburgh basketball game. There were interesting classes I wanted to take and groups I wanted to participate in. In the weeks leading up to my graduation, these small “regrets” ate at me. I’d never have the opportunity to do most of these things again. The pressing question I continually asked myself was “am I going to regret this when I’m older?”

After sorting through these nagging thoughts, I finally came up with a few answers. First, there’s no way I’ll be able to definitively answer this question for another 10 years. Second, as I was worrying about things I didn’t do, I forgot about all of the things I did do, and I did so much! I met so many friends who I’ll work to stay in touch with forever, I turned the city of Pittsburgh into a place I can call home, and I learned how to become the person I am today.

All of the things I did molded me. Does it matter if I didn’t make it to a Pitt basketball game? Maybe to some of my family members who love basketball and “don’t know why I went to a D1 school if I won’t even go to a game!” But to me, maybe not.

Now, as a graduate, I look back on my entire four years and think, Wow, it goes by so fast. Reflecting on what I did helps me not worry so much about missed opportunities. Yes, I probably could have taken better advantage of what Pitt had to offer, but kicking myself isn’t going to bring them back.

For all college students who feel similarly, I recommend you take some time and reminisce on all of the amazing, heartbreaking, stressful, inspiring, and enlightening moments you had the opportunity to experience. These years are going to fly by and they’re almost certainly going to shape you.

Don’t regret the missed opportunities. Rather, cherish the ones you had.