Having smaller classroom sizes makes a difference

How going to a private university can change the college experience


Written By Sara Cronin

My first semester at college wasn’t spent at Point Park. In fact, it was spent at my apparent “dream school.”

Before I went to my dream school, I pictured myself with a group of friends laughing carelessly about free food and pop up cafes – your typical university priorities.

Within the first few weeks of the first semester, instead of finding myself talking and interacting with other students, I spent my free time holed up and alone in a dark lounge in the basement of the student center.

I wish I could say I am joking when I say that my only friends were the cockroaches scattered across the concrete floor of the lounge, looking for crumbs left by other messy and lonely students.

That isn’t to say that I hadn’t tried to make friends on my own. I talked to anyone that I could, but eventually, my hopeful interactions with other students were met with suspicion and unease.

The competition for success that was drilled into the university led my classmates to create exclusive small circles and cliques. Each student was desperately trying to win the teacher’s favoritism or to be the smartest student.

Needless to say, not one student really trusted the other and since I didn’t have A’s across the board in all of my classes, I was left an outlier. 

After my failed interactions with classmates, I decided to keep to myself, which ultimately landed me in the basement of the student center alone and confused.

How did I get here? Why was this my dream school in the first place?

As hard as I worked, it wasn’t long until my grades began to dip. I had to start seeking help from instructors.

At my old university, my instructors repeatedly told us that they were always available and always willing to help, so I wasn’t afraid to ask for guidance outside of class.

But when I did ask for help, I was either met with closed office doors or with grunts and questionable faces from my professors. Who was I again? I was a nameless face in the crowd –  another needy freshman.

I felt unimportant and useless. As the first semester came to a close, I wasn’t sure how I was going to last another semester, let alone another three years at the university. I had to leave. I was not spending another minute in the basement of a student lounge.

I decided to apply for Point Park’s spring semester. I heard nothing but good things from one of my friends that was a current student and I decided to give it a try.

The night before my first day at Point Park, I told my best friend my fears for starting the spring semester. What if I can’t make friends? What if I hate all of my classes? What if it’s just like my old university? She answered me with a shrug and wished me the best of luck.

During my first week at Point Park, I was caught off guard by how many people came up to me and initiated a conversation with me.

In a week’s time, I was laughing until my stomach hurt in a small dorm room surrounded by people who I hadn’t even known the week before.

I didn’t have to sit alone in the basement of a student lounge anymore.

Each of my teachers knew my name within the first week and my classes weren’t jammed into a small room where if I lifted my arm to write notes, I’d be hitting another student.

I was able to get feedback from my teachers on my work and was able to make improvements – something that hadn’t been possible for me before.

I learned quickly that Point Park had something that my old university didn’t and I don’t think many other universities have – a sense of home.

Point Park is a small university, but I think that’s what makes it such a welcoming community. I wasn’t intimidated by my class sizes and I wasn’t intimidated by any sense of competition to be the best student.

Point Park brought out a confident side in me that I hadn’t even known that I had before. I wasn’t afraid to keep my thoughts to myself, and I wasn’t afraid to stand out and be creative.

I wasn’t afraid to talk to other students that I had never met before, because I knew that they could be a future longtime friend. 

As cliche as it may sound, at Point Park, I finally felt like part of a family.