“People!” (Clap, clap, clap) “People!” (Clap, clap, clap) “Please take your seats. Our class is again in session.” Yesterday, Gildshire Magazines began this short series of articles by ranking large colleges in large cities for campus life and atmosphere. Great schools every one of them, but what is out there for kids who don’t want to live in Los Angeles, Austin, or Columbus? They may still want the amenities, resources, and experiences of going to a big school, but in a town a little more handleable in terms of size? Today, we examine our top picks in that category, and why we selected these colleges.
University of Michigan: The population of Ann Arbor is listed as 117,770, but it has a smaller town feel than those numbers would indicate. Quaint shops and fun hangouts abound in the near campus area. As for UM itself, it is one of the most highly respected institutions of post-secondary matriculation found anywhere.
What is it like on campus? Classes are a challenge, but the social opportunities balance the workload. Wolverines enjoy the constant availability of extracurricular activities. These include volunteer events, clubs, intramural sports, and even research. The school makes a commitment to helping students weather stressful times. Few of the 44,178 undergraduates in attendance would choose anywhere else if they had it to do again.
Virginia Tech University: Do you like the idea of a large school. but find even the 100,000+ in Ann Arbor daunting? Welcome to Blacksburg, Virginia! There are 30,598 undergraduate Hokies in this school, all in a town of just 43,985 residents.
While V/T has a large student body those who attend report that almost no one has a hard time finding friends and companions. Virginia Tech has always been good about inclusion and has become even more intentional about it since the tragic shooting some years back. Much of the charm of Virginia Tech is in its rural campus. The school has a large (free) bus service that can whisk friends into town for an evening out. Greek life is present and active at Virginia Tech, but it isn’t overbearing. More than in many colleges the Virginia Tech faculty engage with the student body, blurring the line between educator and educated. That’s a very good thing.
Penn State University: Now we’re talking BIG SCHOOL in a small town. Here are the numbers. Penn State numbers 99,133 undergraduates. All of them in a town of 42,100. Nowhere else in the country is a town so associated with the school in its midst. “We are…Penn State” is something everyone in State College, Pennsylvania can say and be accurate about it.
Students at Penn State have every experience known to mankind. Almost 100,000 kids in one place make it so. Academics at PSU are challenging but not as rigorous as at some of the colleges on our list. That leaves ample time for Greek life, (just under 20% participate) choral groups, theater, opera, the campus radio station, and student government. On Saturday afternoons in the Fall, join with 99,999 of your closest friends to root on the Lions of Mt. Nittany. The college ranking service Niche rates Penn State in the Top 1% of colleges for campus life.
So, what do you think? Can you, or the high school senior clogging up your breakfast table, imagine life as a Wolverine, Hokie, or Nittany Lion? There is a wealth of opportunity to learn, have fun, grow up, and network for the future at these colleges, all the while enjoying life in a relatively small town.
Too big, too much, or too many? Some folks do their best in an atmosphere without a stadium full of other undergrads. Thursday, we will examine campus life at small schools. Until then, enjoy the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, when school is a lifetime away.