5 Struggles Of Transitioning From A Small To Large School, And How To Manage

5 Struggles Of Transitioning From A Small To Large School, And How To Manage

I am used to small schools with tight-knit environments. I’m sure a few of my fellow Newhouse classmates can relate.

I graduated high school with 42 classmates, all who I had spent most of my life with. Then I went to an undergraduate institution that hovered around 1,000 students total. As if that wasn’t a big enough jump for me, I’m now at a school with roughly 21,900 undergraduate and graduate students.

Small was familiar to me and it’s what I preferred, and still do.

I anticipated that Syracuse University would be a drastic, hard smack in the face in terms of size. Surprisingly though, it’s not as troublesome as I imagined. Now that could be because I’m a graduate student so I can handle it more efficiently. Maybe because it’s because I was already pretty familiar with Syracuse, having grown up in Central New York.

Maybe you’re considering Newhouse for graduate school, or maybe you’re a current grad student who shares the same struggles. If so, this is for you to help you off the struggle bus or to avoid it all together. It’s time to add some peace of mind to your life.

Here’s what I struggled with and how I managed:


1. 21,900 students sounds intimidating, but don’t let that number scare you.

Syracuse University is a great place if you want the big school but also want small class sizes. As a Newhouse grad student, I am only ever in Newhouse and only see other students when I walk around campus or participate in other activities. It doesn’t feel like a big campus until you step out of Newhouse, which I can imagine is the same with the other SU schools.

Grad students also don’t take general education courses so the class sizes will be small regardless. With that being said, don’t worry about being just a number. Professors are typically easily accessible.

2. Newhouse is a professional school with numerous experienced faculty and successful alumni. The opportunities for students are endless, which can be overwhelming.

There are so many publications and job opportunities you can join. Set a manageable personal limit and stick to it so you’re not overworking yourself. I’m working for 3 publications on top of my classes and part-time job.

You’ll still receive all the emails about opportunities and you shouldn’t completely disregard them. Just be cautious of what you’re already committed to.

With this is the plethora of events and lectures open for students. If there’s something you’d really like to attend, get your work done ahead of time or discuss it with your professor if it clashes with class time. Don’t give up on attending; there’s always a way around the difficulties!

3. Although class sizes are small and Newhouse is just one school on campus, it can be difficult to find quiet spots to get work done.

During bootcamp, it was so easy to find a quiet spot. I picked a great room that I could have all to myself and now it’s rarely ever free.

My best advice for this is to explore Newhouse one afternoon to find a handful of potential spots. There’s bound to be at least one open computer lab or bench somewhere. You’ll be lucky to find a spot at Food.com or the rooms across from the Career Development Center, but there are benches and comfy chairs all throughout the building.

If it’s nice outside, find an open bench along University Avenue or a shady spot on the grass. Or be adventurous and head to one of the campus’ libraries.

4. Being at a big, competitive school can be intimidating. How do you stand out to your professors when others may have more fine-tuned skills than you do at that moment?

You speak up. To be blunt, you won’t get noticed if you keep to yourself and don’t ask questions or participate. If you want to make connections with your professors so that they would feel comfortable recommending you later on, make sure they know your name, interests, and abilities.

Which leads me to this, fine-tune those skills so you can add them to your résumé. This may help you stand out not only to your professors but to employers as well. Many jobs nowadays say Adobe Creative Cloud isn’t a necessity but definitely an advantage. So play around with the programs while you have free access to them in the Newhouse labs or purchase the Cloud with the student discount.

5. Something not Newhouse-related but important for those who aren’t living walking distance to campus – the bus situation. Transportation wasn’t something I had to navigate when I lived on campus at my small undergrad college.

At SU, there are two different buses that shouldn’t be confused. Centro runs buses to campus from specific locations as does the Syracuse University Birnie bus.

During bootcamp, I rode the Centro bus everyday for free at any time during the week. No one ever really explained the bus situation. I just knew there was a bus that went from my apartment to campus. So from my understanding and the SU transportation webpage, Birnie buses don’t run during the summer so Centro lets students ride to and from campus.

When fall semester begins, students can typically ride either the Centro or SU Birnie buses to campus. That is unless you live at Nob Hill Apartments. Then you should stick to the SU Birnie bus, otherwise the Centro is $2 one way.

Also, be warned that you may be packed like sardines on some bus rides.

Good luck!

April Rink
April Rink is a Master's student from the Magazine, Newspaper, and Online Journalism program at Syracuse University.