For alternative liberal arts colleges, small is a choice. They’re not big colleges in the making, on their way to amassing students and developing themselves into larger institutions. These schools are small by intention, established in their own right with close-knit campus communities, small student to teacher ratios, and a host of other social and educational advantages.
At Shimer, our campus has been kept small for over 160 years! Recent studies by research groups like the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English Studies and Literature) back up what we have always known: there are big benefits to attending a small college.
A Small, Alternative Liberal Arts College Promotes Student Engagement
Findings consistently show the value of small class sizes when it comes to engaging students with the campus community and the subjects at hand. The smaller the class, the more likely each student is to contribute to discussion, instead of passively taking in the information.
This smaller community also means that even though there are less people around, your likelihood of making strong friendships is greater than it might be at a large university, where like-minded people can get lost in the crowd.
"The assumption is that it will be easier to find friends when you have 25,000 people to choose from," says Mark Montgomery, Denver-based professor and educational consultant, "but among all those people, it's hard to find the few who are like you and could become good friends."
Extracurricular activities like sports, clubs, and campus organizations are also made much more accessible to students at small liberal arts colleges because having fewer students makes each person’s individual contributions that much more meaningful. For example, Shimer’s self-governing student body of approximately 100 allows each student an important vote in every policy change or campus-wide issue of interest.
Small Liberal Arts Colleges Maximize Your Academic Performance Potential
“Overall, research shows that students in smaller classes perform better in all subjects and on all assessments when compared to their peers in larger classes,” reports the NCTE. Their findings even show a higher retention level (lower dropout rate) among American small-college students compared to their large-college counterparts.
Students get the attention of passionate, engaged professors in small liberal arts colleges.
This improved academic performance is credited to the quality of individualized instruction students access in small liberal arts college courses, and the higher degree of detail in feedback professors give to each student’s work. Your work can be read and considered more carefully by a professor of 12 students than by a professor of 120. At Shimer, the average class size is 7, and the average student to faculty ratio is 8:1.
Low student to teacher ratios give professors the chance to actually know their students by name, notice when they are struggling, offer personalized insights, and build relationships that often continue into the students’ post-grad pursuits and careers.
Small College Communities Can Better Position You for Long-Term Success
The benefits of small colleges don’t end at graduation. Those who study at small, alternative liberal arts colleges enjoy excellent employment rates in a wide range of fields. And small colleges like Shimer are known for producing active and close-knit alumni, a valuable resource for helping graduates’ career networking and employment potential.
Smaller colleges lay foundations for strong, tight-knit alumni networks that support students.
Perhaps the greatest lasting benefit of studying as part of a close-knit campus community is the chance to truly develop your own individuality and identity among diverse and supportive peers.
"A small campus offers you a chance to forge a real personality,” says Montgomery, “not just 'wear the colors' of the institution."
Your work will be noticed, your ideas will be valued, and your voice will be heard when you choose to go small.
Are you interested in pursuing a small, alternative liberal arts college?
Visit Shimer to learn what our community can offer you.