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Editorial | Those who choose Miami know that size matters

By Editorial Board
On April 10, 2014

"The Harvard of the Midwest." "A Public Ivy." You've seen these banners around campus. They make Miami University seem really prestigious - which it is - but university marketing can get a bit over-the-top when it starts comparing Miami to Harvard or other Ivy League schools. However, one set of statistics to which we can personally attest are the statistics that laud Miami's professors. Miami University teachers are different from Ivy League teachers; they're much different than professors you would find at the Ohio State University or Michigan State University, for example.

With the majority of courses taught as 500-plus person lectures, we wonder how students can even muster up the courage to ask questions or foster relationships with their professors and classmates. With upwards of 45,000 students, we question whether MSU or OSU teachers could really be that concerned with building relationships and knowing the names of their students.

But at Miami, we know they are. Miami was nationally ranked first among public universities for best teaching by U.S. News & World Report and in the top three of all colleges, just after Dartmouth and Princeton. This is something Miami could, perhaps, promote more to prospective students, rather than comparing it to Harvard.

Once your professors know you personally, they become an invaluable resource for getting jobs, internships and leadership positions. They are more likely to challenge you and push you to reach your full potential when they realize the kind of student you are. This is something we think Miami students benefit from more than students at other, larger schools.

Miami's graduation rates are first among Ohio public universities and 19th among national public schools. At OSU, only 42 percent of students graduate in four years; at Michigan State, only 47 percent graduate in four years. At Miami, 68 percent of students graduate within four years.

After discussing these statistics with friends of ours at these schools, we came to the conclusion that university faculty at larger schools are generally not that concerned with helping their students graduate on time. If you can't get into a class when you need to, well, you're out of luck. Not at Miami.

Faculty are typically very helpful when it comes to accommodating students in their classes. And though it is not guaranteed that you will be able to force-add a class, we students aren't just a number at Miami like we would be at other schools.

The Miami Student Editorial Board thinks this can be attributed to the size of the Miami student body. With just under 16,000 full-time students, Miami is a big enough school that there are new opportunities to be had and new people to meet every single day, but it is small enough that a 20-minute walk will get you from Western campus to King Library, that you can have a personal relationship with your professors, that you can pass by your friends and acquaintances on your way to class. It is small enough to feel like home.

Great student-faculty relationships are one thing that sets Miami apart from larger schools, but we also think it is easier to find your place at Miami through the countless opportunities to get involved with on campus. With so many out-of-state students, a lot of us come to Miami without knowing too many people. At a very small school, it could be difficult to find an organization or group of friends that you feel comfortable with. At a large school, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd. In our minds, Miami sits right in the middle - not too big, not too small. The campus is still big enough that there are plenty of new people to meet as well. The seniors on our editorial board say even they are meeting new people, joining new organizations and utilizing new campus resources they have never tried before.

These things may sound trivial but it truly does impact someone's college experience. To ensure that you find your place at Miami, the editorial board recommends finding opportunities to work with professors one on one, whether that's doing research or working on a project of some sort. Find a professor who is doing work that interests you and convince them to let you join in. When you get a professor on your side, you get access to funding and scholarship opportunities, networking and job opportunities, not to mention a wealth of knowledge in your field-- and even a valuable friend. We are fortunate to be surrounded by professors and other faculty who are, for the most part, approachable and accessible.

Our other tip is to attend the lectures and events that Miami University and student organizations put on. They sometimes cost the university thousands of dollars and we pay for them out of our fees so we absolutely should go. They're often fascinating topics presented by fascinating people. We miss out by choosing not to attend.

Between the wealth of lectures and events, faculty who are eager to help and organizations that welcome interested students with open arms, it is easy to realize that size does matter when choosing a college and we are glad we chose Miami.

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