Should I Go To a Small College? 25 Things Only Liberal Arts School Students Understand

Ah, the small liberal arts colleges. Typically tucked away in the back woods of some mountain valley or tiny vacation town, small liberal arts colleges are both a great place to learn ... and a great place to slowly go insane because you're tucked away in the back woods of some mountain valley or tiny vacation town. In fact, small liberal arts colleges are so small, each school doesn't even get its own special article.

So, sorry, alumni of Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, Amherst, Williams, Kenyon, Antioch, Bowdoin, Reed, Grinnell, Bard, Hampshire (my alma mater — go Red Scare!), and countless other teeny-tiny schools that you have to explain the existence of to people at parties. We're going to have to share.

But you're used to sharing, right? Whether it was sharing a library with that huge university one town over, or sharing an ex with your roommate because there were only, like, nine guys at your school, the small liberal arts college experience is all about sharing. And small classes. And being so far away from the outside world, sometimes, you think you're gonna lose it. But mostly sharing.

So let's share the traits that make life at a small liberal arts college so special, shall we? Because there are some things only we small liberal arts college students truly understand.

you know what COMMUNITY actually means

You know almost every person on campus, from your classmates to Steve from the bursar's office.

IN FACT, SOMETIMES THE SENSE OF COMMUNITY IS TOO REAL

God, can I go anywhere on this campus without running into everyone I have ever known, especially goddamned Steve from the bursar's office?!

YOU'RE MILES AWAY FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD

The rustic isolation is beautiful in the fall and spring ... but you often feel like things are about 20 minutes away from turning into The Shining during the winter.

YOUR MASCOT HAS A COMPLEX BACK STORY

Listen, if you really want me to explain why our mascot is a polar bear/ gryphon/ purple cow, we're gonna miss the whole game of competitive fencing.

football? what's that?

Yea ... we don't play that here.

YOU KNOW EVERYONE'S EMBARRASSING SECRETS

Since you've only got about 300 classmates to keep track of, you will never forget any of the dumb things they've done — like that one guy from your freshman dorm's bad goth phase, or the time that girl from your Physics lab got so drunk she fell out the library window.

...AND EVERYONE KNOWS YOUR EMBARRASSING SECRETS

Forget ever trying to reinvent yourself — no matter what kind of cool haircut you get during your semester abroad, everyone still remembers you as the girl who fell into a trash can during orientation.

PEOPLE TAKE A CAPELLA VERY SERIOUSLY

The Smith College Smithereens on YouTube

PEOPLE TAKE ULTIMATE FRISBEE VERY SERIOUSLY

OKAY, FINE, PEOPLE TAKE ALL EXTRACURRICULARS VERY SERIOUSLY

There's just not that much to do all the way out here except get super-intense about all your interests, okay? Now, who's going to join my new Ukulele Orchestra?!

because IF YOU DON'T HAVE A HOBBY, THINGS CAN GET REAL BORING, REAL FAST

YOUR SCHOOL HAS AT LEAST ONE MADE-UP HOLIDAY

It is probably named after something very classy, like one of your school founders, and is also probably just an excuse to do something weird while you drink booze.

YOUR FRIENDS WHO GO TO BIG UNIVERSITIES CAN'T BELIEVE HOW SMALL YOUR CAMPUS IS

AND YOU CAN'T BELIEVE HOW HUGE THE CAMPUSES AT BIG UNIVERSITIES ARE

So, uh, how do I, uh, get to the, uh...anything?

YOU CAn'T GET ANYWHERE WITHOUT A CAR

See: the one freshman every year who tries to walk into town and ends up having to get picked up by the side of the highway.

and A TRIP INTO TOWN TO GO TO THE ONE CRAPPY MALL IS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR WEEK

A place in town? With multiple stores and restaurants? Sure, I’ve heard the tales about it…but could it possibly be real?

YOU'VE HAD TO ATTEND AT LEAST ONE FRIEND'S PERFORMANCE ART SHOW

YouTube

Wait, what's happening? Did she say the cheese sandwich she's balancing on her head represented capitalism or feudalism? Wait, why is she smashing the sandwich with a hammer now? I lost my program, I'm never gonna be able to follow this.

YOU'vE HAD AT LEAST ONE CLASSMATE WHO TRIED TO LIVE IN THE WOODS BEHIND THE SCHOOL

You don't know if it's because he read Walden over the summer or if he was just trying to get out of paying room & board, but the administration was really not into it.

YOUR CLASSES ARE SO TINY THAT YOU'RE EXPECTED TO TALK EVERY time

Which sounded great when you were touring the school, but is less exciting when you're expected to discuss Euripides at 9 a.m. while nursing a hangover.

everyone knows which PROFESSOR Has a cult following

Usually it's because they had some cool job before they started teaching. You feel bad about not getting invited to the exclusive off-campus dinner parties that he throws, until you find out that they usually involve him drinking three bottles of merlot and then crying about his ex-wife.

YOUR SCHOOL DOESN'T exactly HAVE AN extensive ALUMNI NETWORK

You only realize this when you go to the career office during your senior year, and find that there is exactly one alum in the field you’re interested in, and that 75 of your classmates have already emailed her.

BUT WHEN YOU DO MEET AN ALUM, YOU BOND INSTANTLY

It's easy to find things in common with past students when there are only about 40 teachers, six dorms, five class buildings, and one bar/ cafe/capoeira studio in the entire place.

YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAD A REAL COLLEGE EXPERIENCE

Sure, you complained about the size and isolation sometimes, but you were able to truly focus on learning, or hacky sack, or whatever it is that you're into.

And hey, you have the rest of your life to live in a big city, right?

yeah, you might complain, but there really is no place like the campus coffee house

It's fair trade, duh.

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