When I was a senior in high school, my big decision, like many of my peer's, was which college to choose. For me, that choice was between Brandeis, a small private liberal arts university or the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, an enormous public university. To the obvious person, these two schools seemed quite opposite. But I just didn't realize this at the time.I applied to Michigan because the summer before my senior year in high school, I spent a summer there. It seemed like the typical college, the kind you see in catalogs and on television shows. And because I got to experience it firsthand, it made my familiarity with this picturesque university that much more real.

After spending a summer there, I realized I loved it and knew it would be one of my top choices. But then again, a few months before, when I toured a bunch of schools in the Boston area, the second I stepped onto the Brandeis campus -- without even having had a tour or information session - I knew it was where I wanted to be for the next four years.

I received my acceptance to Michigan in December of my senior year, but I was still waiting to hear from Brandeis. I assumed that I would go to Michigan, so when I got an acceptance letter from Brandeis, I was torn.

I returned to Michigan once again to experience the university while classes were in session. As soon as I got there, I knew that Brandeis was the place for me. In the summer time, Michigan seemed so pleasant, but mid-semester I really felt like a little fish in a big sea. It almost felt as if I was a commuter at Grand Central Station in New York during rush hour, pushing through crowds of people.

Now, after having completed three years at Brandeis, I don't know why my decision to choose between a big public university and a small private university was so hard to make. These two types of schools are truly complete opposites.

I realize there are many differences between private and public schools, and even though I have griped about Brandeis a lot, I am glad I chose it. The one thing I notice about public universities that distinguishes them from the small private schools like Brandeis is the social life. The mentality of most Brandeis students is to work hard during the week and then go out and have fun on weekends.

Unlike Brandeis students, however, many of my friends who go to public universities go bar hopping every night during the week, and still manage to succeed academically. Yes, maybe these schools give less work than Brandeis in many instances, but I suppose the mentality at public schools is party hard, work less. My friend who goes to Penn State, for instance, got drunk six nights in a row last week, even though she had class bright and early every day of the week. Yet she still manages to do well, as she already has a job lined up at J.P Morgan upon graduating.

Another difference between the social scene at private and public schools is the social groups. At Brandeis, there are way too many cliques. The fact that people have to do everything in groups is sad. It seriously baffles me when big groups of people go to the gym together, for example, even though they all go exercise on individual machines.

College is the time when people are supposed to be independent and do things on their own. Upon visiting, some of my friends from home who go to public universities or schools a lot bigger than Brandeis have remarked on the cliques here. They even make fun of Brandeis because it is so cliquey. Seriously, are we back in high school again? My high school wasn't even nearly as cliquey.

I guess in many ways, I am guilty of this phenomenon, but I also do things by myself or hang out with people on a regular basis not in my primary social group.

At public universities, you can meet someone and never see him again in your four years there, but at smaller schools, you run into the same people all the time. Especially here, I never meet new people. Walking to class, into Usdan or going to the gym, I feel like I recognize the majority of the people. I sometimes have an intensive urge to escape campus because I am sick of seeing the same people all the time.

Academics also pose a major difference between private and public universities. Students who go to public schools attend huge lectures and the only contact they have with their Professor is via e-mail, if he or she even responds to that. Potentially, students at a public school can skip their lecture-style classes all semester and still receive a 4.0 for the semester.

But at Brandeis, since most of the classes are small or are lectures with mandatory discussion sections, students need to attend. Also, in small classes here, participation usually counts for a certain percentage of the grade making it hard for students to sleep through their classes if they wish to do well.

Also, students at private universities get to know their professors, especially during office hours, common in many private schools. Therefore, students have a great advantage in knowing some of the most intelligent and well-read people in the world. I think it's important that if these resources are at your fingertips, you take advantage of them because you might need letters of recommendation, or job connections later on.

Athletics are another major distinction between public and private schools. Public schools are generally in Division I, whereas private colleges are usually Division III. Division I teams are generally better. Perhaps that is why students at public schools actually have school spirit and go to the sporting events.

I know at the University of Michigan, for example, students have to buy season tickets to their football and basketball games giving them the same seats for the whole season. Also, going to the games becomes a social event, where much tailgating occurs before and after the game.

After having completed three years here and into the process of my fourth, I am glad I chose Brandeis over Michigan. Yes, I have complained about the social life at times, but I have had an excellent academic experience thus far. I have realized there are many advantages to going to a small private school like Brandeis, but even if I had chosen Michigan or another big public university, I think that I would still be able to find my niche.