Choosing the right college or university can be a daunting task. Students must consider many factors, such as the size of the institution, location, academic programs, and extracurricular activities. While these are all important, there are several key factors that can significantly impact a student's success in their undergraduate studies and beyond. In this essay, we will explore four of these factors: the importance of faculty relationships, the benefits of attending small and medium independent schools, and the positive impact of committed faculty.
First, undergraduate students who build strong relationships with their faculty are more likely to achieve success in their careers (1). Faculty members are experts in their fields and can provide valuable insights, advice, and networking opportunities for students. According to a study by Gallup-Purdue, students who had a faculty mentor were 2.5 times more likely to feel engaged in their work and to be thriving in their overall well-being after graduation (2). Furthermore, these relationships can lead to job opportunities, research collaborations, and lifelong connections. Sadly, the findings from Gallup found a low percentage of STEM majors were able to build mentoring relationships with their faculty (2). However, the School of STeM at SWU excels in this area – we take seriously the call to build relationships with our students from their first semester on campus. Jessica Sparks (Class of 2019), a current 4th-year DVM student at Mississippi State College of Veterinary Medicine, shared this, “Each of my professors did an amazing job stretching me so that I could reach my fullest potential and never settle. In order for them to do that, they first had to get to know me on a personal level. The best part about SWU was the student-professor relationships that were built over the four years. Each professor took the time to get to know me as a person and not just a number on the attendance roll.”
Secondly, small and medium independent schools offer unique advantages that can help students persist and graduate in fewer semesters than larger institutions (3). These schools often have smaller class sizes, which allow for more personalized attention from faculty and greater opportunities for student engagement. At SWU, most of our courses have fewer than 25 students enrolled and our largest classes have fewer than 50 students. All of our laboratories are taught by faculty members rather than graduate students. Additionally, these schools often have a more cohesive community and a stronger sense of campus culture. This can lead to greater student involvement in extracurricular activities and a higher degree of social support, which can positively impact academic performance and overall well-being. Southern Wesleyan University is a small, independent school with a wonderful sense of community. Our students arrive as individuals with big dreams to serve their world. By graduation, these students are part of a wonderful community of their peers that continue to support and encourage one another.
Thirdly, students majoring in STEM fields at small and medium independent schools are more likely to earn doctoral degrees based on data from the Council of Independent Colleges (3). These schools often offer rigorous academic programs in STEM fields and provide students with hands-on research opportunities. This outcome is likely due to the personalized attention and mentorship provided by faculty members, as well as the opportunities for undergraduate research and experiential learning. Dr. Reagen Fields (Class of 2017) graduated from Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM) in 2021 and is now an Ob/Gyn Resident at the University of Louisville hospital. She confirms this about the preparation at SWU. “As a SWU student, the pre-med/biology curriculum was incredibly beneficial in preparing me for medical school,” said Fields, explaining how most of the material she had to study for the medical school entrance exam (MCAT) was covered in courses she took at Southern Wesleyan. Being part of SWU’s Honors program also helped Fields prepare.
“It was my first opportunity to conduct a self-directed research project with one-on-one guidance from a faculty member. I was able to publish a research article and gain experience with public speaking by presenting my research numerous times to professional audiences. I didn’t realize how much of a privilege it was to have that opportunity in undergrad until I got to medical school and found out that most of my classmates with that sort of research experience were only able to do so in a master’s or Ph.D. program,” she said. Overall, outcomes for graduates of the School of STeM at SWU also concur with this national finding. In the past 5 years, students have earned doctorates in medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, biology, and chemistry.
Lastly, faculty at small and medium independent schools are often more committed to teaching, which leads to better student outcomes (1). These institutions prioritize teaching over research and often have a higher percentage of full-time faculty members compared to larger institutions. This leads to more opportunities for personalized attention and mentoring, as well as a greater focus on undergraduate research and experiential learning. Additionally, these schools often have a more collaborative culture among faculty members, which can lead to more innovative teaching practices and a greater focus on student success. These characteristics apply to the School of STeM at SWU. Most research conducted by faculty directly involves our undergraduate students. We also work to incorporate evidence-based teaching strategies into all of our curriculum. Our faculty are highly qualified in their fields of study and each program is led by at least one faculty member with a PhD or equivalent degree. Some are well known in their research areas at a national level. But each has chosen to be at SWU because they are committed to educating undergraduate students.
In conclusion, choosing the right college or university can have a significant impact on a student's success in their undergraduate studies and beyond. Choosing a STEM major at SWU will allow you to easily build relationships with and benefit from committed faculty to positively impact a student's academic and professional success. Our long track record of student success shows that our curriculum and approach to STEM disciplines can launch our graduates into successful careers of their choice. We encourage you to learn more about the School of STeM at SWU and see why we can be your best option for your choice of college.
- Seymour E, Hunter AB. 2019. Talking About Leaving Revisited: Persistence, Relocation, and Loss in Undergradaute STEM Education. Springer, New York, NY, USA.
- Crabtree S. 2019. Student Support From Faculty, Mentors Varies by Major. Gallup.com. https://news.gallup.com/poll/246017/student-support-faculty-mentors-varies-major.aspx. Retrieved 23 May 2023.
- The Council of Independent Colleges. 2014. Strengthening the STEM Pipeline: The Contributions of Small and Mid-Sized Independent Colleges.