From a town of 2,000 people to a university city of 98,000, the transition to college can come as quite a shock. The same is true for students raised in cities of 40,000 people who come to Orange City.
Private colleges are scattered all throughout Iowa as they are in other states around the nation. However, its booming universities and busy state schools have many people dreaming of going so they can get the “real college experience.” So what’s the deal when it comes to private and public schools? Are there more opportunities at one or the other, both socially and career related?
Jennifer Saunders moved from the humble Rosemount, Minn., to Eau Claire, Wis., to attend the University of Eau Claire. UWEC is a public university with 10,000 students in attendance. Jennifer is involved in intramural volleyball, has a job and attends group workout classes every night. When she’s not doing any of those activities, she’s in the library. On weekends, she takes the bus to the mall during the day and goes to clubs and house parties at night. When asked what she thinks about private schools, she said, “After attending such a diverse liberal arts school, I don’t think I could readapt to a selective private school. Since Eau Claire has so many people, I think it would be hard for me to adapt to a smaller environment. Even though I think I may have more opportunities to be deeply involved in activities at a private school, I really do like the large amount of diversity here. I see something new every day.”
As for career opportunities, Jennifer admitted, “I would probably get a job much more easily by going to a more prestigious school like Northwestern. I know I would be more immersed in my studies there. Mostly anyone can come to Eau Claire; it’s not that hard to get into. I sit in class with people who don’t really care whether they ever succeed in life; they’re honestly just in college for the parties. But I think that diversity in thinking is what makes Eau Claire interesting for me.”
Freshman Carly Farrington hails from Littleton, Colo., which certainly is no little town. Her decision to come to and her time spent at Northwestern offers us another view. “I decided to go to a private school because I wanted to be surrounded by a Christian environment, and because my parents wanted me to as well. I think that people who go to private schools like Northwestern actually have many more career opportunities; we work harder and have much more coursework than someone who goes to a public school. I do think we are a little sheltered though in the social aspect. We certainly don’t meet as many people, but I believe we form closer relationships with the people that we do meet.”
Others may think that by choosing to attend Northwestern, students are trading in their social life for a good career. But maybe attending NW has allowed these students to form deep, meaningful relationships while their challenging studies equip them with what they need to succeed in our futures. Maybe attending NW has truly brought students the best of both worlds.