On Going to a Small School

Swat is small, with a student body of about 1600 students. This is a distinguishing characteristic of the school, and it generally comes up in conversation whenever I’m talking to a stranger or a distant relative about where I go to school, or even my friends from home who went to much bigger schools than I did. The ‘smallness’ of Swarthmore was something that I was a little concerned with before I came here, as I had a theoretical idea of what the size would mean. You know, small class sizes, closer relationships with professors, things like that. But, I had no idea how the size would play out in actuality. I’ve found that in real life, the positives of going to a small school like Swarthmore far outweigh the negatives, especially in ways that aren’t generally advertised.

 

Redwood Walk.jpg
One of the paths from my dorm to the academic buildings. Credit: Garden Walk Garden Talk

This is only my second semester at Swarthmore, so I wouldn’t say that I know a ton of people. That being said, every time that I walk to class, to the library, to Sharples, anywhere, I run into at least five people that I know. That might not seem super significant, but it brings a strong sense of safety and of community, knowing that wherever you go, there’s a very high chance that you’ll find a friend. I have friends at other schools who can go through an entire day without running into a friend or acquaintance outside of their dorm, something that I can’t even imagine happening here. On the flip side, I will admit that occasionally you will see people that you don’t want to a little more often than you would like, which can be a little unfortunate.

 

Sharples
Sharples Dining Hall Credit: Swarthmore College

 

Because of our small size, we also have a single dining hall, Sharples. Since almost every student on campus generally eats at least one meal a day at Sharples, and mealtimes are relatively limited, you can imagine that there’s a lot of overlap in the people that you see at any given meal. I have found that there are certain people that have a very similar routine as I do, and we happen to eat most of our meals at the same times. But, despite this, I see new people almost every time that I go to Sharples. Swat is a perfect size, where you can always find a friend, but at the same time, there are always new people to meet.

 

classroom
A Sociology Seminar Credit: Swarthmore College

 

It would be silly to talk about Swarthmore’s size without talking about its influence on academics. It has been really influential to my experience here to have professors that genuinely care about my learning and about who I am as a person, something that I do not think would have been feasible had there been more students in my classes. It’s also really nice to know everyone in my classes. It makes the learning environment feel much more comfortable, and people are less afraid to speak up or to make mistakes.

Reflecting on my time at Swarthmore as a whole, I really think that I made the right choice in coming to a small school. The ‘smallness’ that I was worried about has only made me feel closer to the people around me and to the things that I am studying. Swat feels more and more like home every day, and I can’t imagine going to school anywhere else.

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