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Small College or Huge University? Size Does Matter

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Although some teenagers– or possibly their parents – have had their hearts set on Harvard since kindergarten, proximity to home is often a deciding factor when selecting a college or university. (Some people want to live at home and save money while others want to get as far away from mom and dad as possible.) When the time arrives to begin making lists of potential schools, another common requirement has to do with the college’s size.

The size of college or university you think you’d like to attend will definitely help narrow down your list of options, and finding a good match depends on your personality and educational goals. If you picture yourself at a huge school with more degree programs than you could possibly count and popular sports teams that appear on television, a big university is probably a good fit. On the other hand, if the thought of attending huge classes in lecture halls turns you off and you want professors to actually know your name, a small college may be right up your alley.

The More the Merrier or the Fewer the Better?

Large public universities often have tens of thousands of students, most likely causing you to be just another face in the crowd. For some students that sounds terrifying, but for others it’s just the way they want it.

Small private colleges can have as few as a couple hundred students, meaning classes are so small it’s completely obvious to everyone when you don’t show up or forget to turn in an assignment. There are pros and cons to big schools and small schools, and it’s a good idea to consider them all when trying to decide which type of college will be a good fit for you.

Five Pros of Attending a Large University

  • Large schools have a wider variety of majors and degree programs than small schools.
  • Should you decide to continue your education after earning a Bachelor’s degree, large universities often have graduate programs.
  • More students equals more alumni. You’ll have a better chance of making connections with alumni that may lead to employment.
  • Large universities are usually state-funded public schools, making tuition considerably lower than it is a private school.
  • Most large universities have well-funded, popular sports programs.

Five Cons of Attending a Large University

  • It’s not uncommon for classes held in lecture halls to have several hundred students.
  • Professors are often so involved in their own research that they do not bother to learn their students’ names, and personal interaction is rare.
  • Classes are often taught by graduate assistants instead of the course’s actual professor.
  • The trend of “getting lost in the crowd” makes some students afraid to ask for help which means that falling behind is a lot easier at a large school.
  • The transition from high school to college may be rather difficult on a huge campus.

Five Pros of Attending a Small College

  • Small classes mean that a lot of student-teacher interaction occurs.
  • Asking for help is usually easier in a smaller class setting than it is in a lecture hall full of hundreds of people.
  • Professors usually teach their own courses, as opposed to graduate assistants doing it for them.
  • There is usually a strong sense of community among classmates because people are actually able to get to know one another.
  • The transition from high school to college may be easier if your college is not much larger than what you’re used to.

Five Cons of Attending a Small College

  • The costs associated with attending a small private university are considerably higher than attending a large state school.
  • Smaller colleges offer fewer majors and degree programs than large universities.
  • Although small colleges may have athletic programs, there is less emphasis placed on sports, which many students enjoy.
  • On-campus housing may be rather limited on small campuses.
  • There are usually fewer Greek organizations and social groups to join at small colleges.

Find a College That’s a Perfect Fit

Whether you’re contemplating attending a huge state university or a small, private liberal arts college, it’s important to find a school that fits your needs. People tend to thrive and succeed in environments where they are most comfortable.

Our free online resources include a school comparison tool where you can learn the similarities and differences of various colleges across the United States. Be sure to take advantage of it and all the other resources available right here at StateUniversity.com!

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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