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Large State University vs. Small Private Colleges–Which Is Best?

As I traveled around the Deep South last week visiting colleges, I was happy to feel some of my old stereotypes melt away. To be sure, southern colleges reflect their geography and the culture of people of the region.  But academically speaking, there are many fantastic schools, excellent students, talented professors, innovative programs, and beautiful campuses.  It’s a pity that more of my clients from the West, the Northeast, and the Midwest generally will not consider colleges in the South.

I asked my friend Bill Worden, a professor of Spanish at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, about these prejudices.  Bill and I were pals at Dartmouth, and he grew up in Massachusetts. He received his doctorate at Brown.   So when he landed a job a UA, he had to make some adjustments in his academic worldview.

So I asked him about his experiences at the University of Alabama, and his impressions of his students, and his discoveries large, public universities in some parts of the United States.


The point is that all types of universities offer excellent educational opportunities to those who take advantage of them.  What’s important is finding the college or university that fits you best–a place where you feel comfortable and welcome.  For many, the flagship university of your home state may be the best fit for you.  For many others, however, a smaller, more intimate setting may be best.

But whatever you deem best for you, don’t let parochial views of your peers, neighbors, or acquaintances influence your priorities too much. Take the time to investigate the types of schools that fit you best.  Be willing to think outside the box and look at other regions of the country. Don’t make uninformed judgments based on stereotypes.  Determine your own, personal educational priorities, and take the time to find the best college for you.

Mark Montgomery
College Counselor and Southern College Enthusiast


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