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Small is Beautiful! 5 Reasons to Consider a Small College or University

When considering schools to which you may want to apply, it's very tempting to limit your choices to well-known "flagship" universities, which are almost invariably large, comprehensive research institutions. While such schools may be a good fit for some students, they're likely not the best fit for everyone. Of the many good reasons for choosing to attend a small college or university, this article focuses on three: small schools as a source of academic and personal growth, the sense of community at a small school, and small schools as a route to higher-level study.

Small Colleges

Academic and Personal Growth

Small schools are well known for having small class sizes and professors who are focused on teaching (as opposed to research). In such cases, a small school can offer outstanding opportunities for academic and personal growth. You will have an opportunity to work closely and develop strong collaborative relationships with both classmates and faculty, and build a valuable network that you’ll be able to leverage in future years as you navigate through professional life or on to higher-level academic study. The intimacy of the classroom and accessibility to professors not only creates an ideal environment for learning, but will truly give you the opportunity to shine as a student. Your professors will be in a position to recognize your strengths and talents and guide you in your growth.

A Sense of Community

Small schools excel at building a sense of community that’s difficult to find at large institutions. This sense of community is likely to encompass students, faculty, administration, and the local population as well. At a small school, you will quickly come to realize that you are not a nameless face in the crowd and that the community offers the supportive environment that’s so critical to success when studying abroad. This sense of community can also promote a broader understanding of other countries and cultures, as international students may be less likely to gravitate to their own country-specific clique, which often happens at a large institution.

Excellent Route to Higher-level Study

For those students interested in higher-level study, a small school can offer an excellent route to graduate-level study at a top research institution. This is true for a number of reasons. First and foremost, you’re likely to have more frequent and more meaningful one-on-one contact with professors than at a large school. This can yield huge dividends in terms of academic advising and opportunities to work on faculty-led projects. Secondly, you will likely have a chance to hone your research and report writing skills, as small class sizes free up professors to assign more written work, which is time-consuming to grade. Finally, you may have the opportunity to do bigger projects, such as junior papers and senior theses, most likely under the supervision of an expert in the field. All of these provide excellent preparation for graduate-level study, and will not go unnoticed by top schools.

Small Schools in Focus

The GAC Pathway University network includes a number of excellent small schools. The following are three worth considering:

    College of Wooster


    The College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio, USA, offers an excellent, comprehensive liberal arts education, culminating in a rigorous senior project, in which each student works one-on-one with a faculty mentor to conceive, organize, and complete a significant research project on a topic of the student's own choosing. Through this distinctive program, every Wooster student develops abilities valued by employers and graduate schools alike: independent judgment, analytical ability, creativity, project-management and time-management skills, and strong written and oral communication skills. As a result of this academic tradition, The College of Wooster has an outstanding record as a springboard to graduate-level study. Founded in 1866, the college enrolls approximately 2,000 students, 16% of whom are international students.

    Milliken University

    Milliken University

    Millikin University, in Decatur, Illinois, USA, is a private, comprehensive university with a diverse student population of approximately 2,100 undergraduate and graduate students in four colleges/schools: Arts & Sciences, Fine Arts, Professional Studies, and Business. A Millikin education offers more than 50 majors and features Performance Learning, a unique approach to learning which offers students the chance to perform their learning inside and outside the classroom, and build the confidence to succeed before and after graduation. Located on a 75-acre residential campus, Millikin’s century-long tradition of teaching students to be courageous has a history of proven results—99% of Millikin students gain employment or entry into graduate/professional school within six months of graduating. This is yet another reason why Millikin is ranked No. 10 Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report, as well as No. 28 Best Value School, and No. 5 Most Innovative School.

    Saint Leo University

    Saint Leo University

    Founded in 1889, Saint Leo University is a top-rated, private university located in St. Leo, Florida. This university offers students an ideal college experience—from our leading-edge academics with over 50 programs (including unique accelerated 3 + 1 degrees) to our commitment to the Benedictine core values. Less than an hour from downtown Tampa, the peaceful campus is surrounded by rolling green hills, dazzling orange groves, and clear-water lakes. As the safest campus in Florida, the university prides itself on providing students with the peace of mind to focus on their academic experience. Saint Leo has 2,200 undergraduate students on their University Campus, with a student to faculty ratio of 14:1. There are over 60 clubs and organizations, as well as NCAA Division II Athletics. Saint Leo is home to more than 550 international students from over 100 countries. Saint Leo University has developed a test-optional policy that does not require undergraduate applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores as part of the admissions process, and graduate students are not required to submit the GRE or GMAT. Saint Leo offers academic scholarships for undergraduate students up to $13,000 annually, to help make a private United States education affordable and accessible to students from across the globe.

So when researching colleges and universities, be sure to consider small schools as well. You’ll be glad you did!

6 Tips for Writing a Great University Admissions Essay

Many universities require an essay from students when they apply to university. One recent report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), showed that US universities rated the application essay as highly important in making admissions decisions for international students.

If writing is not your strength, or you are applying at a US university, and English is your second language, this might be a cause for worry. Please don’t panic! Application essays present a great opportunity for you to communicate your unique strengths to university admissions officials.

Some universities will give you specific prompts to answer. Others will ask you to tell your story and how it led you to university. No matter what the university asks you to write in your submission, remember that admissions officials are not simply looking for your ability to use big, frilly words. In your essay, remember to be yourself and speak in your voice.

Remember these six tips when writing your admissions essay.

  1. Start early. Make a list of the number of essays you need to write and their deadlines. Give yourself plenty of time to think through the topics and brainstorm writing points.
  2. Create an outline. Break down the prompt (the question asked) of each essay. Ask yourself: Why would an admissions official ask this question? What are they hoping to hear from you? Next, pair personal stories or experiences that illustrate your answers. Use these anecdotes in bullet-point format to help organize your thoughts around your thesis. Make sure it has a clear beginning, middle, and end. This is your outline.
  3. Read some examples. Some universities publish essay examples on their websites. These examples may indicate what that university considers a strong application. If the university you’re applying to doesn’t provide sample essays, try searching online to understand the expectation better. (Remember, NEVER plagiarize somebody else’s work.)
  4. Address what is NOT on your transcript. Think of your essay as an in-person interview. As you write your essay, imagine you’re sitting in the room with an admissions official. They have already read your transcript and resumé. The question is, "what else should I know about you?" That is what you should keep in mind as you’re writing your essay. How could you expand on the information presented in the other parts of the application or highlight strengths you haven’t pointed out in other parts of the application?
  5. The deeper you go, the better. For your anecdotes, focus on specific details. You might not have enough space to tell your entire life story, but if you focus on a couple of examples, it can make your essay come to life.
  6. Have a few people review it. Once you have completed a draft, ask someone you trust (a parent, counselor, or teacher) to review your work. Ask them to check for grammatical errors and provide feedback. Remember to limit the number of people who review your essay to one or two—too many opinions can muddle your voice.

ACT Test Prep That Fits Your Timetable!

Whether you take pride in being the "World’s Most Prepared Student" or start your mornings with "wait, that test is TODAY?," you could probably use at least a little help in preparing for a high-stakes test like the ACT® test.

ACT offers free and paid test prep tools designed to help students get ready for test day. Whether you need to focus on a certain subject area (or many areas) of the test, or if tests make you nervous and test-taking strategies might help, or you have been procrastinating, and the test is just days away, there is a test prep option for you.

Below, we offer suggestions for test prep that fits your schedule. Please keep in mind that each of these tools can be used anytime. However, if you need some long-term or short-term test prep, the tools below offer a good fit for your particular needs.

“I have months to prepare.”

If you’re the type of student who craves a lot of prep work, there are many options to give you a “deep dive” into what you need to know.

  • ACT® Online Prep (paid)—This web- and app-based resource includes a personalized prep path that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, with tools to track your progress and full-length practice tests to improve your comfort level on test day.
  • The Official ACT® Prep Guide (paid)—Are you more comfortable with book learning? This guide provides full-length practice tests, with detailed explanations and practical tips on how to boost your score in each area.
  • The Official ACT® Prep Pack (paid) — This tool combines ACT Online Prep and The Official ACT Prep Guide to get the fullest possible prep experience.

“I have days to prepare.”

Is test day just around the corner? We have tools to help students whose time is limited.

  • ACT® Rapid Review(paid)—This tool provides live and on-demand instruction on preparing for the ACT. Choose the subject areas and delivery options that meet your budget and schedule.
  • ACT® Academy (free)—This is a free online learning tool with videos, games, and other resources designed to help improve your ACT score and support your classroom learning.
  • Preparing for the ACT (free)—This free study guide gives you a taste of the ACT, familiarizing you with the test instructions and format, before offering a complete practice test. Note: This booklet is also available in Spanish.

“My ACT test is tomorrow!”

No worries! There is still time to prepare and boost your comfort levels.

ACT Practice Tests (free)—Your ACT® Club membership offers practice tests that give you the same experience as taking the actual ACT test.

You can also review these test strategies and review ways to keep your anxiety down. Don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast before the test, with plenty of time to arrive at the test center!

Would you like to know more? Click here to access a free webinar about your ACT test prep options.

Pathway University News

ACT Exhibits at the NAFSA Conference

From May 28–31 in Washington, DC, USA, GAC representatives exhibited at the annual conference of NAFSA—The Association of International Educators. The team’s primary focus was to promote the GAC program and to encourage higher education institutions to become GAC Pathway Universities. 

The GAC Pathway University Network is Growing

ACT is pleased to welcome the following schools into the GAC Pathway University network.

College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, USA, is a small (enrollment: 2,000), comprehensive liberal arts college that is nationally recognized for its commitment to mentored research and its international focus. The College of Wooster has an outstanding record as a springboard to graduate-level study. 

Duta Wacana Christian University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, is a medium-sized (enrollment: 4,500) coeducational private university. GAC graduates who wish to continue their study at UKDW Yogyakarta can enroll at the university without having to take the entrance test and may be granted scholarship (terms & conditions apply). 

Mercu Buana University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, is a medium-sized (enrollment: 7,000) coeducational private university. GAC graduates who wish to continue their study at Mercu Buana can enroll at the university without having to take the entrance test (terms and conditions apply). 

Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, is one of the top universities in Australia, ranked among the top 100 in the world. GAC graduates can now be accepted for direct entry into Monash University undergraduate degrees.  

Petra Christian University in East Java, Indonesia, is the oldest private Christian university in Indonesia. GAC graduates who wish to continue their study at PCU will be exempted from the obligation to pay the university registration fee (terms and conditions apply). 

Saint Leo University in St. Leo, Florida, USA, is the oldest Catholic institution of higher education in Florida and one of the top universities in Central Florida. 

GAC Center News

Welcome, PPPK Petra

PPPK Petra schools in Surabaya, Indonesia, have joined the GAC community. The largest Christian group of schools in Surabaya, PPPK Petra has an outstanding record of academic achievement and will adopt a comprehensive, multi-level approach to college preparation, beginning with ACT’s English Proficiency Program (EPP) at the junior high school level. The program will culminate with the Global Assessment Certificate at the high school level. This five-year contract will include thousands of students from multiple schools benefiting from the program. Welcome, PPPK Petra! 

Congratulations, GAC Graduates!

The following institutions recently celebrated the graduation of GAC students. 

Colegio Chapultepec Ponce de Leon, Chapultepec, Mexico 

Preparatoria Universidad Panamericana Femenil,
Mexico City, Mexico 


Escuela Sierra Nevada,
Mexico City, Mexico 

High school affiliated with Harbin Normal University 

BPK Penabur Bogar, Sentul City,
West Java, Indonesia 

The GAC Team is Expanding

Since March 2019, ACT has invested heavily in the leadership of the GAC program.

Kenneth Doucet, MBA—Program Director, GAC 

Ken is responsible for oversight of the strategy, direction and execution of the day-to-day coordination, development, management, service, and operational aspects of the GAC program. Ken brings more than 20 years of experience in international education, professional certification, and workforce development to the position. 

Changhua Rich, PhD—Principal Scientist, GAC Research and Curriculum 

Changhua serves as lead on all GAC research- and curriculum-related initiatives and works collaboratively with the GAC Program Director, the Global Academic Director, and the Academic Coordinators from ACT and regional offices to bring innovation to the GAC program. She comes to GAC with almost 20 years of experience as a Research Scientist in the education assessment industry, as well as a strong international focus.