Find Your Place

Three young women pose for a picture with cotton candy in their hands

Many students think that it’s easier to make friends at a big university, because there are so many more people. In fact, the opposite is true.

A nationwide survey of alumni of the smaller Lutheran colleges and universities and national flagship universities explored questions of campus community and camaraderie. Some of the results may surprise you.

Lutheran college graduates were more likely to say they benefited from a sense of community and to say they made friends in class. Just ask Julie and Jason Winkler, whose Valparaiso University professors and friends participated in their wedding.


Students generate much of the social and cultural life at small colleges. Large universities may offer more campus organizations, but smaller institutions often offer more opportunities to become involved.

For example, at a Big 10 campus there may be 650 athletes within an undergraduate population of 25,000, meaning that less than three percent of the undergraduates can play intercollegiate sports. At a smaller institution, you’re likely to find 400-500 athletes in a student body of about 2,000.

Gustavus quarterback throws down the field.

At almost any small liberal arts college, a first-year student can walk into the newspaper office and walk out with an assignment, sing in a choir without previous experience or experiment as a DJ at the college radio station. Or, you can initiate a new student organization. Whatever your interests, you won’t be a passive observer or an anonymous face in the crowd!

At Lenoir-Rhyne University, Alexis Harris found that her social life blossomed with all the activities she participates in – Sigma Kappa sorority, tutoring elementary students, editing the college newspaper and working with the freshman orientation program. “I had a small group of friends in high school; I wasn’t so involved,” she says. “Here, I find myself wanting to get into everything.”

Professors and Friendship