Small Town, Small School, Big Opportunities--Guest Post by Rebecca Rothkopf

Note from Katie: Rebecca Rothkopf is an acquaintance of mine from my days at Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Colorado. She has recently been hired by College Summit Southern California, but for today's guest post she brings her experience working in the campus programming office at Adams State University, which is located in the San Luis Valley part of Colorado, which is in an extremely rural and  isolated part of the state. It's a small university, and part of her job was putting on events and encouraging students to take leadership roles and be involved in planning their own campus events. 

I'm particularly excited to share this guest post for two reasons--first because Rebecca offers extremely valuable insight into an aspect of student life that I have no experience with, and second because Rebecca and I haven't communicated in over six years--that this guest post represents the power of re-connecting with casual friends from way back in the day. What a great opportunity!

Adams State University student at a leadership summit (used by permission.)

Small Town, Small School, Big Opportunities

Selecting a school for college is an exciting, albeit challenging, task. Majors, extracurricular clubs and activities, and location all come into play in the decision-making process.

From personal experience, I can say that after growing up in the densely populated urban area of Denver, the thought of attending college in a small town never even crossed my mind. My undergrad was at Colorado State University—one of the largest in Colorado. But, after graduation I spent a year working in student activities at a university in rural Colorado, and I now recognize the positives that come with studying in a small town atmosphere.

For those of you urban/suburbanites who think moving to a rural area is just about as appealing as walking on hot coals or competing in the Hunger Games, here are some reasons why you shouldn’t cross a potential school off your list because of where it is located:

1. The sense of community.

One of the most beautiful things about going to school in a rural area is the strong connections that form between students, faculty, and staff members. Stellar academic work and students actively involved in extracurriculars really do get noticed. The purpose of college is to challenge yourself and grow. The faculty and staff get that, and can serve as a solid support system if you are willing to reach out.

2. Take a chance to enjoy nature!

Since rural areas clearly aren’t surrounded by sprawling cities, small town schools often offer outdoor programs or occasional trips to cool places in the area. Adams State University, the school I worked at, even went so far as having their own outdoor adventure program. Students could sign up for weekend classes in ice climbing, rock climbing, and mountain climbing for majorly discounted prices.

3. Not into hardcore outdoor activities? That’s okay too!

Regardless of where you go to school, colleges offer clubs and programs that cater to students with a wide variety of interests. If you’re not sure what a school has to offer, tour the campus, browse the website, and check in with someone from student government or the campus activities office. It’s their job to serve you, so don’t be shy!

4. You can really let your voice be heard.

Here’s an example – The student-run campus programming board at Adams State University held weekly meetings where students could present their ideas. As a staff member, it was my job to do what I could to make their visions a reality. The result? A group of freshmen planned a campus-wide zombie hunt, and the students got to choose which celebrities came to campus. Less people and an intimate setting mean forming solid connections, having more say in what happens, and great opportunities for advancement.

5. Going to school in a small town doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck there forever.

The Colorado mountains, looking wild and rural.

Living in a small town during the school year and taking on an internship in the city during the summer could provide you with a broad range of experiences you wouldn’t have otherwise. There’s also National Student Exchange, a program some schools offer that allows students to study at a different college in the country for a tuition rate close to (if not matching) what they pay at their original school. It’s basically a study abroad program, but within the United States instead.

While some of the items on this list apply to larger schools in cities as well, I would still argue that rural schools provide the opportunity to really get involved, bring their ideas to action, connect with others, and branch out in an area that may be somewhat out of their comfort zone.

Does anyone else have input about going to school in a rural environment? What are the advantages/disadvantages? Does anyone who comes from a small town or rural area want to weigh in? How much does location matter to you in your college choice? We'd love to hear!