From a Bowdoin Student: Why I Enrolled at a Small College

February 02, 2017

Have you considered applying to liberal arts colleges? If you’re not sure about what school size you prefer, Brendan M. from Bowdoin College wants to share his experience of applying and enrolling at a small liberal arts college. 

I took a very relaxed approach to my college admissions. As I was confident I would be comfortable no matter where I ended up going, I didn’t overly stress over my school’s size or location. When I finally ended up deciding to go to a small liberal arts college, I was vaguely aware of the often-quoted benefits of similar schools. These benefits included small class sizes, professor accessibility and general campus coziness. While they sounded good on paper, I either didn’t truly believe that the school would deliver on these promises, or didn’t think they would affect my college experience that significantly.

How happily mistaken I was.

The personal feel I had with professors, staff, and the campus as a whole shaped my first year into an incredibly positive experience. Though I’m sure it would drive some people crazy, I loved running into two or three acquaintances on the way back to my dorm everyday after class. It felt great to be able to look around the dining hall after a few months and be able to at least recognize half the people there.

By far the best example of how a small school benefited me was my experience studying Mandarin. I had been learning Mandarin for several years in high school, and it had consistently ranked as my least favorite subject. Though I could find interest in chemistry, math, English and history, I always dreaded having to open up my Chinese textbook. Due to my antipathy towards learning the language, I enrolled in a Mandarin class my first semester, thinking I would just get the requirement out of the way and be done with it. To my surprise, it became one of my favorite subjects.

The class had seven students, including myself, a fact that initially intimidated me; due to how closely we’d have to interact with the professor. This I believe made all the difference in the world. Being in a class so small meant that each student would get an incredibly high level of personal attention. There was no “zoning out” in the back like I had in high school. The professor took great pleasure in having his students participate constantly, so there was never a dull moment. We would even have to meet him individually outside of class once a week to have a twenty minute conversation, where we could ask him questions about what we were learning, or to just chat in Chinese. Though intensive, this style of teaching revitalized my interest in the subject, and soon enough I found myself actually enjoying the work.

This was not by any means unique to me. I have plenty of friends who had similar experiences across all manner of subjects, from high-level mathematics to a course on ancient Roman art. And it makes sense; when you don’t feel like just another student in a crowded lecture hall, it’s so much easier to dive into what you are learning at the time. Sure enough, when next semester’s class enrollment came around, I immediately signed up for another five months of Mandarin class.

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About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.




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