A Letter to Incoming Freshmen Going to Small Schools

Hook up with someone? Prepare to see them everywhere. And laundry—good luck with that.

College x

Hook up with someone? Prepare to see them everywhere. And laundry—good luck with that.

Dear college young ones,

By now your college application process is finished and you’ve officially picked the school you’ll be attending this fall. Let’s be real, it was a hard choice to make. The hustle and bustle of a big campus looked exciting, with its promise of the college experience you’ve heard so much about. But after much consideration and many lengthy college tours, you chose to attend a small school.

Since that decision, you haven’t heard the end of it. Teachers and relatives countlessly praise you for choosing such an academically prudent route, reminding you over and over again how you’re going to have a smaller, more intimate class setting. They won’t forget to mention the higher likelihood of having a good relationship with your professors, either. “You won’t be just another number.” Sound familiar? (If you read that statement in your aunt’s voice, then the answer to that question is yes.)

And you’re proud of that. You’re proud that you chose a more personalized education over a huge classroom that would have allowed you to skip whenever you wanted. Being able to sleep in class was tempting, but you sacrificed it for the good of your future. Deep down, you feel you deserve some adult points for that. Tinier class sizes aren’t the only thing that separates small schools from the big ones, though—there’s a number of unadvertised phenomena that will make your stay on a small campus feel more like a family sitcom than an academic sanctuary.

First thing’s first, it’s really hard to do laundry. I’m sure you’ve already come to terms with the fact that you’ll be responsible for keeping your clothes clean once you move into your dorm. It’s a pretty hard responsibility to ignore considering you need clean underwear (though you could be like my friend who just continuously buys new underwear).

But wait until you see the battleground that is the laundry room. Desperate students in need of a clean shirt count the minutes until a washer or dryer becomes available. And if you leave your laundry in the machines after the timer goes off, don’t be surprised to find your clothing already taken out by someone else once you arrive.

To avoid problems, make your official laundry day whatever weekday you have the fewest classes scheduled. If you do laundry when everyone is in class, you can avoid having to circle an unavailable laundry room like a starved shark in smelly clothes. Another quirk of going to a small school is that the students tend to have similar preferences. In other words, they like the same things.

A classic example is the student body’s choice of recreational drug. It will be more common to find psychedelics on a smaller campus, though less likely to see hard uppers, like cocaine. Of course I’m not saying you’re going to get into drugs, but it’s a point of fact that smaller campuses attract a certain kind of student, and those types of students often favor a certain class of narcotic.

This next one is guaranteed to happen. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you hookup with someone, be prepared to see them everywhere. They could end up being good friends with your suitemate, forcing you to see them in your living space. Or they could even end up sitting right next to you in class one day. And I should know, because both of these things have happened to me.

But it’s really not so bad. You learn quickly to be mature when walking by them, treating former flings like friends instead of shying away at their presence. Then again, maybe that’s just me. If you don’t like running into last night’s drunken mistake, then think long and hard about who you spend your night with. Because chances are they live on the floor just above you.

Another experience unique to small schools is the sense of elation you’ll have at when taking a class that’s larger than your usual discussion-type groups. As great as it is having a personal relationship with professors, it’s wonderfully freeing to know that you have at least one class in which attendance doesn’t matter. Plus, it’s not the end of the world if you’re ten minutes late.

Let me be clear, though—just because bigger class sizes allow you to get away with a few absences doesn’t mean your grades won’t suffer. With great power comes great responsibility. So if you’re going to skip, be sure to keep up with the course material and keep track of assignments. Only ditch if you’re going to do it right.

Most importantly, remember that you’ll need to be patient with some of the inconveniences that small schools create. Find ways to deal with these problems like a mature adult instead of growing aggravated. By growing as in maturity as well as intellect, prove that the money spent on sending you to a small college has been a wise investment.

You might not get to go to huge stadium events, but you’ll be surrounded by a community of familiar faces, a community that gives you the feeling of belonging to a place that you get to call home for the next four years. And the thing is—you really will feel like you’re home.

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