Deciding which college or university to attend or apply to is a huge and difficult decision. It will not only determine what the next few years of your life will be like, but also have a significant impact on your future beyond that. Many friends and loved ones will have some influence your decision, but you must ultimately make the tough decision for yourself. Part of that decision-making involves determining whether you want to go to a large state university or a small private college.

Most college level schools fit into one of those two categories . Let’s look at each.

Public Colleges and Universities

State-run schools tend to be less expensive to the individual student than private schools, but also typically offer less financial aid to those with a need. These schools generally have a lot of on-campus sports and fraternities. Their classes are large, lecture-style environments where the teacher will seldom get to know you by name, but will also not notice if you aren’t there. They tend to give more tests than written papers, because no professor has the time capacity to grade hundreds of research documents. These schools frequently have huge parties and hectic social scenes.

Small Private Schools

Small private schools are more expensive than state schools, but have lots of money to give away as financial aid to those in need. (And they are normally so expensive that there are few who don’t need financial support.) These campuses don’t usually have many sports teams or classy stadiums. The classes are also less populated so you have greater opportunity to get to know your professors and for them to do the same with you. The classes are often structured around discussions with the students, and instead of so many tests you usually have to write papers. The social scenes at these schools are smaller and more low-key than state schools, but there are usually still plenty of gatherings and new people to befriend.

The type of person you are will largely determine what kind of school you should attend. If you are a highly rated athlete, for example, you probably will prefer a large state school that can put you among tougher competitors. If you are more introverted and don’t like feeling like one of a million anonymous students, then you might prefer a small private school. Really, this decision splits along two lines: What kind of social atmosphere do you like? What kind of learning style do you more enjoy? (An important side question, of course, is what can you ultimately afford?)

According to the first question, if you are extremely outgoing and popular, then you probably want to go to a state school. If you are more introverted and unconventional, then you will more likely enjoy a smaller private school.

Additionally, based on the second question, if you like learning from lectures and would rather take a test then write a paper, you should pursue a state school. On the other hand, if you like class discussion and would rather write papers than study for tests, you’re more likely to enjoy the small private school atmosphere.