Large Public Universities
Many students and parents have formed opinions on colleges prematurely. People are susceptible to marketing and advertising. People hear names and think colleges are all what a label implies. This is not a great approach to college selection. Popular names are usually attached to good schools, I will not deny this, but large public universities and state colleges are often simply dismissed without a fair look.
In the United States, most states have two or three different types of public schools for higher education. Many states have both a major public University system with many undergraduate and graduate schools, and a state college system with campuses spread out all over the state. Michigan for example has the very, very large main campus of The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and also has the Michigan State system with its main campus in East Lansing. Both have other campuses in the state as well. Michigan State has Community Colleges attached to it.
The public university system in the U.S. is truly impressive. Parents and students should seriously consider their own state colleges, if you are US citizen. If you are an International student, you should also consider the state schools, but you will not benefit as much, in some ways. Public schools in each state do offer a more affordable tuition option for instate residents. Some states have mandates as to what percentage of students can be accepted from out of state. The University of Virginia, for example, will only take up to 30% of its students from out of state. Some schools, such as UVA, offer direct legacy students, coming from out of state, the resident status for application. So that out-of-state number can be a little fuzzy when many of those spots might be taken by a direct legacy applicant. But the good news for parents, if your alma mater is a great public university, your scholar might have an advantage. You most likely will not be granted the advantage of instate tuition though. Be sure to call and find out! Some, especially the Southern schools, actually have legacy programs offering the prospective students some extra amenities before applying.
Why go public?
- Depending on the state, these schools tend to be much larger. They offer more opportunities in terms of courses and majors. Also, there are considerably more dorms for most large public universities. And a much larger acceptance pool. Some offer a variety of admission options as well up to one full year after high school graduation.
- These schools are bastions of research. Hence, they can attract the world’s most ambitious and dedicated minds. The number of gifted professors, in house, working on leading edge solutions in medicine, engineering, sustainability, political science, etc. is simply astounding.
- Opportunities for participation in a more varied social life are greater. Many smaller schools do not have Greek Life or predominately Greek Life for social and community activities. Large public schools have numerous activities and clubs and are very inclusive. The range of diversity in everything from heritage to talent in large public schools is impressive. Virtually anything a student would like to try or contribute is offered. There are 1100 registered Student Organizations at the University of Texas, Austin! And staring your own new one is encouraged as well.
- Since leading edge research is being done in volumes not available in many private schools, access to the most current and even controversial theses and thoughts are at the student’s fingertips. Professors and Grad TAs are eager to share and support intellectual curiosity for pretty much any student interested enough to join a discussion. There are also far greater chances to participate in a significant creative problem solving project while studying at a large public school.
- Employment is more abundant at large public schools, as many students help defer costs through work-study programs. Also since these are very large campuses, these schools are small cities unto themselves, for which there are numerous different types of jobs that need to be done in order to keep the school going. How great for students studying horticulture to be able to work right on the grounds of UC San Diego’s luxurious campus? Or students studying agribusiness to be able to see the effects of irrigation systems right at Arizona State? Do you know how many graduates of public universities actually settle right in and have a career there after school? You’d be surprised! The student employment offices are robust with many job openings all year long.
- Graduate schools are more varied and larger at public universities…some public schools have several 6 year programs, especially in medicine, that enable the student to go directly from undergraduate into graduate. Also, many public universities actually have great respect for other public institutions when considering graduate school applications. Smaller private universities often only have one or two graduate programs.
- Maturity happens at big schools along with self-advocacy much sooner…big public schools offer transitions and supports for first year students. Many offer greater support systems but all public schools really do want the student to grow up and self-advocate. These universities are invested in your scholar succeeding and will do what is necessary to get it done! Most students by the end of their sophomore year are fairly independent and functioning quite well.
- Career Planning and Placement has far more options for internships during school and employment after graduation simply due to the sheer size of the schools; larger employers all want to recruit at these schools. Make no mistake; these schools’ names all have prestige in the work world.
- Athletics are just so great at large public schools. The fun of belonging to the teams is one of the most exciting bonding experiences at almost every single large public university. Not only do the students enjoy wearing all the team logos, but the parents usually end up being part of the extended team family as well. The athletics in large public schools is such a defining experience that almost all of us carry through life! We are invested in our alma mater forever!
- ADA support is usually very extensive and current. Contrary to what many parents of students disabilities think, larger and public, in terms of college, is sometimes way better in terms of support for students. Every single US College I have spoken to offers amazing support systems, but large public universities are invested heavily in these students and their programs. There are usually several different ADA coordinators. There is also a dedicated counseling service and technology service for ADA students. There are numerous devices, apps, and tools that are offered as well as educational assists in learning how to use the tools. The idea is to help these students towards self-sufficiency so if there is a way to create a method the student can use without tutoring or note taking by others, the school will help the student to transition from the place of dependency to autonomy, well. The goal of all these departments is to empower these students so that they can adjust well into the world.
The benefits of large public schools are endless, or so it seems. There are drawbacks for every choice, let’s be realistic. But to simply dismiss an extraordinary public school that happens to be down the road, simply because it is down the road, is foolish. Students often voice to me, “it’s too close!!!!” Well, it really isn’t. Large public schools are their own towns, really. Might be geographically close, but once there, you will forget how close to home you really are….and truth be told, sometimes, you might actually be glad you are close to home. 🙂 So get out and go down the road to check out your nearest state school!