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KOLI: Why large universities are difficult to navigate

Column: Talk More

While attending a big state school can be energizing, it can be difficult to find your place academically and socially.  – Photo by @theyardru / Twitter

Attending a large university has its pros and cons.

Large public schools like Rutgers tend to be more diverse, offering more resources and extracurriculars for students. Students can discover new things, find their niches and connect with people from across the globe.

A big campus also means more classes, majors, minors, internships and programs. As of the Fall 2022 semester, more than 60,000 students across all three campuses from all backgrounds, including in-state, out-of-state and international students, attend Rutgers. 

But at the same time, the classes are generally of larger size due to the number of students attending the University, meaning that each individual receives less attention.

Every student at Rutgers is here to build connections, gain real-world experience and take advantage of career opportunities to become successful. It can be difficult to do this alone, so we turn to others for help.

Rutgers has a plethora of resources to help with student success: financial aid, career exploration, counseling, health, academic advising and more. With thousands of students attending the same school, there are many demands that need to be met in a timely manner, but this becomes difficult due to the sheer number of students.

This means students have to fight if they need something from the University — emails can go unanswered while phone calls are put on hold.

For example, if you have issues with financial aid or housing, then you would have to reach out to the relevant University offices. But do not expect a fast reply. If you need guidance with your major or academic success, your advisors can help you, but they have hundreds of other students to take care of. So these advisors cannot divert all their attention and effort toward only one student.

The same applies to classes too. A significant portion of the classes offered here consists of more than 100 students jam-packed into a large lecture hall.

It can be overwhelming to learn in a classroom five times the size of a typical high school classroom. Additionally, this makes it harder for students to connect with their professors and classmates. In some cases, bigger classes also mean having to attend recitation led by a teaching or graduate assistant instead of the professors themselves.

Other schools have smaller classrooms, so the professors are more familiar with the students and can better engage with them. Since fewer people attend those schools, advisors can get to know their students and follow them closely throughout their college careers.

Professors can be the biggest influences on our college careers. Many of us choose areas of study based on how well a professor teaches a certain class. This can inspire students to foster relationships with them, which can benefit us in the future when it comes to jobs, internships, scholarships, etc.

For this reason, staying in close contact with professors, teaching assistants and graduate assistants through attending office hours is imperative for staying on top of school work and getting the most out of your education. But when many students are competing for the same positions, competition increases significantly.

Even with the clubs and organizations offered at this huge University, it is hard to stand out as a student. Along with that, no matter how sociable or outgoing a person can be, everyone needs alone time. When people are constantly around, it is hard to find peace. 

At the same time, people tend to feel alone despite the number of students physically present around them. Public state universities, like Rutgers, have many in-state students that went to high school together. Some students may remain friends, while others may not.

But seeing and being around the same people you spent the majority of your school years with makes it tough to branch out and make new friends. Oftentimes, it is easier to stay close to people who you are already familiar or comfortable with. Attending a big school makes it easier to meet new people, but it is harder to make deeper, lasting connections.

After all, students are paying thousands of dollars to go to big universities that will help them thrive in the future, and therefore, they deserve to get the most out of their tuition.

This should not discourage students from fighting for their needs. You may feel disheartened at times, wanting to give up, but it is important to stay patient and push for what you want.

Vidhi Koli is a first-year student in the School of Arts and Sciences, where she is undecided. Her column, 'Talk More,' runs on alternate Thursdays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Due to space limitations in our print newspaper, letters to the editor must not exceed 900 words. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 700 and 900 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day’s publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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