When I was looking at colleges, I knew I absolutely wanted to go to a big school. I went to a pretty average high school (a lot bigger than some, a lot smaller than others), but I was ready to go bigger. I was dead-set on going out of state, so I figured- why not go all out and get the biggest, loudest, best college experience I could find?
Well, I didn’t end up at the biggest college out there (we’re the 64th biggest, that’s something right??). I’m now finishing up my third semester here at NC State and I love life at this school so much. I couldn’t imagine a better decision or a better fit for me than right here. I attribute a lot of this to the school’s size because with size and quality, everything else readily follows. Today, I want to share everything I love about going to a larger school and why I’d recommend it to anyone. I’ll try my best to hide my bias 😉
1. There’s always something going on.
Shackathon 2015- student organizations build shacks and have someone inside 24/7 for a week to raise money for Habitat for Humanity!
You know it’s a good day when Food Lion is on campus and gives you a lunchbox full of food!
When the marching band shows up outside your dorm!
You can always find something happening in the Brickyard or someone tabling on the plaza. There’s always some event to go to- you have no excuse to be bored! Many companies (especially restaurants 😉 ) are drawn to big schools for sponsored events or even just random giveaways on a major part of campus because they know they’ll get a lot of traffic.
One of the best things about big schools is the spontaneity and the unpredictability. With so many students of so many different backgrounds, one of them is bound to do something funny to make your day brighter! I mean, I once saw a bike in a tree and I completely lost it-
It probably wasn’t even that funny, but just imagining some guys trying to get that bike up there…I can’t 😀
2. Three words- Stadium. Student. Sections.
First college football game!
There’s nothing like tailgates in the South, but there’s really nothing like being in the middle of thousands of screaming, passionate fans in the stadium. I’m not a big sports fan and fighting crowds on game day severely stresses me out, but there’s no better feeling than being a student in the student section at a home game. It’s a feeling you won’t ever get back, so cherish it! The students are all so different, so unique, and it’s incredible to see everyone come together to yell insults at the refs (well deserved insults, I promise 😉 ).
Plus your team will always be televised for major sports like football and basketball. #convenient
3. You have countless resources at your disposal.
When Target opens just for NC State students and has free food and t-shirts!
Bridge going across the interstate! Read more about that weekend here.
I’m constantly amazed at all that’s available to me for free (and by free I mean included in my tuition somewhere).
The health center has basically every non-emergency service you could need, including a counseling center. When else are you going to get free counseling and low-cost medical visits?
The academic support on a large campus is also unparalleled. A larger student body means a larger pool of tutors in a wider variety of subjects. I can honestly say I would not have passed Calc 2 or Physics without my tutors. They’re so great and really care about helping you do well.
And free career and professional guidance? The career center will do resume revisions, practice interviews, and so much more. Bigger schools attract bigger professionals, so you know you’re getting quality help.
The free student events are also so much fun. During our welcome week, for example, the local Target opens late just for State students to do some last minute shopping at midnight, eat some free pizza, and try and snag a free t-shirt. When else can you run around Target with music blaring and students all over the place trying to find the t-shirt line?
Big schools have huge street fairs, homecoming parades, community involvement, concert headliners, company tours and meet and greets, and so much more. You definitely don’t want to miss out!
4. Academics are so broad, they help you find your passion.
Freshman Engineering Design Day team, 2015!
With hundreds of degree programs available, you are almost guaranteed to find your home in a department. Everyone is so passionate about what they study and so willing to share their love with you. And if you don’t know what you want to study or you want another perspective on a career path, you have thousands of students to contact. I promise there is someone who has done what you want to do, it’s just a matter of tracking them down!
Don’t be afraid of the lecture hall horror stories. You are never just a number- don’t let big-school-outsiders convince you otherwise. Your professors do care and do make an effort to engage, even in halls with a hundred students. Sit in the first few rows, and you won’t even feel like you’re in a lecture hall anyway! Personally, I’ve only had one 100-student class and one or two 50-student classes a semester. Big schools have a ton of faculty, so just because there are a lot of students doesn’t mean the student:faculty ratio is ridiculously high!
It’s also super easy to get involved within your major (or area of interest) right away. For example, at State all freshmen in engineering are put into teams and have to design, test, build, and present an engineering project after their first semester. My team made a probe to test in the nuclear reactor on campus (another big campus perk!), which was so much fun and a great introduction to the engineering process. Having a nuclear probe on your resume doesn’t look half bad either 😉
5. You have even more campus to enjoy.
Big campuses can be intimidating at first but once you learn where you’re going, it’s so incredible. Big schools usually have a rich history, so having countless historical buildings is so beautiful. On nice days when everyone is outside, it just feels so college, you know? I’m constantly in awe walking to class because I’m absolutely in love with my campus. The bricks speak to me. #noshame #BetterThanStucco
Plus, you get more steps in if you’re a Fitbit fanatic, so that’s nice too.
6. It pushes you out of your comfort zone.
Run, Dance, Glow 2016!
Parade of Flags, 2015
Being a part of a big student body means you have to advocate for yourself. You can’t expect everything and everyone to come to you. I’m not outgoing by any means, but I’ve definitely come out of my shell a lot since high school. I still have terrible social anxiety, but I’ve grown comfortable with eating, walking to class, and shopping alone. I’ll do cold calls and informational interviews. I even joined a sorority, like what? Everyone that knew me in high school would be completely shocked.
My first few weeks of college, I made it a point to sit with someone I didn’t know eating alone in the dining hall and I met a lot of great people. This is great because, if it’s awkward, you may never see that person again. If you hit it off, yay, new friend! You never know who you’ll meet unless you put in the effort.
My point is, big schools make it so that you can push your comfort zone, but not be humiliated if maybe you fail the first time. You do things you never thought you would be able to do because you either get caught up in the school spirit and community or the opportunity presents itself or you just decide to take the chance! It’s an awesome feeling to see how much easier these things become the more you push those boundaries.
7. You can be somebody.
With Cynthia White, the speaker for my personal branding event!
Because there are so many ways to get involved, you can step up and find leadership opportunities to help leave your mark somewhere. This semester, I was professional development chair for my sorority and it really helped me find my passion for, you guessed it, professional development. I knew that my contributions were appreciated and (hopefully) helped my sisters learn something new.
Just because you’re at a big school doesn’t mean you can’t make a name for yourself. There’s a lot of cross-department interaction and community activities that give you the opportunity to 100% get out there and be whoever you want to be. Because everyone is so different, there is no pressure to conform to a certain mold. You can be you and your college community will embrace that!
8. You can be nobody.
Living on the top floors has its advantages!
And for those days where nothing seems to go your way? You fumble with your wallet at the coffee shop and drop your books on your way to class and run into the door frame to the lecture hall and trip up the stairs headed to your dorm?
You probably won’t see any of those witnesses ever again. You don’t have to be embarrassed because there are so many people doing so many different things that your stumble won’t ever cross someone’s mind again. If you’re incredibly awkward and clumsy *like me* this is extremely comforting. You can go through life with confidence because, even if you falter a time or two, no one will remember.
9. You find your people.
A.O.E. Sisterhood Retreat, Fall 2016
With literally hundreds of student organizations on campus, there’s bound to be something you’re interested in. Big campuses, as I’ve said repeatedly, are so diverse with so many different people that it’s not hard to feel like you fit in.
If you’re into Greek life, there are a ton of different sororities/fraternities to join, from service to Christian to STEM and professional. I joined the engineering sorority on campus and I’m so proud of every single one of my sisters and what they’ve accomplished so early in their careers. Not every member of Greek life is like what you see in the movies (read about that here), so don’t brush it off before you give it a fair consideration!
There are also a bunch of living and learning village options, professional societies for your major, community service groups, bible studies, basically anything you could ever want to do. These clubs and organizations bring the large campus down to a smaller, more manageable level and can lead you to your best friends!
Big campuses give you the options. The options give you an intimate community.
10. The opportunities are endless.
Just chilling under a house, NBD.
I’ve gotten so many opportunities that I would not have had if I went to a small school. Big schools mean a lot of students (obviously) which means a huge alumni network. Thousands of alumni also mean that many of the local ones are willing to participate in mentorship programs or even just meet with students who reach out to them. I signed up for an alumni mentoring program, met my mentor over the summer, and he has been simply amazing. He’s such a cool guy, is super successful (in my opinion 🙂 ), and has helped me so much, especially with growing my network.
Just sharing an alma mater can get your foot in the door at a company! Because State is such a huge engineering school, our engineering career fair is packed with companies looking to hire students. At my office, almost everyone I’ve met graduated with an engineering degree from State! It’s so interesting to talk with older graduates to see how the school has evolved over the years.
Another thing big schools have going for them is the many travel opportunities. I don’t just mean study abroad either- I’ve participated in alternative service break trips and they have changed my life. Bigger schools have a greater reach for building relationships with nonprofits and therefore more opportunities for such trips. Last year, I went to West Virginia to help repair substandard housing in rural Appalachia and this year I’m going to California to install solar panels in underserved neighborhoods. These small teams help make a huge student body seem less overwhelming (as I’ve said before) and you can meet some incredible people interested in the same things you are!
I get that big colleges aren’t for everyone, but I really believe they have such an incredible return on investment in so many aspects of your life that you just can’t find anywhere else! <3
~Are you thinking of going to a big school? If you attend/ed one, what do you love about it?