Small class sizes foster strong sense of community

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By Kristen Harris

The biggest college class I’ve been in had about twenty students, which is still almost twice the size of most of the classes I took in high school. However, even in a classroom with nineteen other faces, most of them still knew my name.

I, personally, would much rather be in a classroom of twenty at a small college than a classroom of two hundred at a state university. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I chose Florida Southern to be my home for the next few years.

As someone who has only ever lived in small towns, I prioritize a strong sense of community wherever I am. I want to feel connected to the other students and faculty around me. I want to get to know people. As an incoming freshman, I looked for a college that would feel like home.

College Board cited a strong sense of community and hands-on learning opportunities as just a few of the top reasons to choose a smaller campus with smaller class sizes. The writer also mentioned the opportunity that students in small classes get to know their professors and their peers well.

This is another of the main reasons I love the small class sizes so much. I’ve gotten to know the people in my department and plenty of students outside of my area of study. It’s kind of like being back in the small Appalachian town I grew up in. Most everyone knows most everyone else. It’s wonderful, and it’s comfortable.

However, the small classes can be challenging to some. College Board also said that small colleges have fewer research opportunities and less variety in social activities. Being with the same dozen or so people in almost every single class can also feel suffocating.

In the middle of high school, I moved from my small Appalachian town to an even smaller town in Florida. In my new hometown, there wasn’t much outside of orange groves and cattle farms. However, the people who lived there learned how to create their own opportunities. One group of business owners turned an empty plaza into the center of downtown culture. Another family started their own annual 5K. Dozens of community members sell crafts or paintings or baked goods at the annual Caladium Festival. They’ve taken what little they have- an empty building, a family recipe, a street corner- and turned it into something that benefits the entire town.

I think that, on a small campus, you have to do the same sort of thing. If you’re not satisfied with what opportunities have been presented to you, then it’s up to you to go out and create your own. It amazes me to see what kinds of things my peers and friends have created for themselves, from an art history club to an equestrian team. Florida Southern students who aren’t satisfied with what they’ve been given always seem, to me anyways, to go out and make their own ideas into realities.

Taking small classes on a small campus is  a bit like driving on Route 66. It may not seem like much at first, but once you start looking, you will find so much untapped potential every single time you turn your head.

The benefits and challenges of a small class size don’t stop outside the classroom door. Rather, what we’ve learned in tiny rooms with twenty other people is this: it’s not what little seeds are planted for you, but how you choose to grow and harvest, that matters.

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