Does class size matter?

College Search

Our counselors answered:

Does class size matter?

Carol Stack
Principal Hardwick Day Inc.


Absolutely class size matters -- research tells us that the undergraduate educational experience is best when it involves discussion style classes, lots of written and problem solving assignments, opportunity for oral presentations and group work. Pretty hard to create a course syllabus with these elements in you have 200 students in your class. pretty easy (and more intellectually fun) to do when you are teaching a class of 15!

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair High School

Does class size matter?

Does size matter...that one has been argued over the ages. There is more interaction in smaller classes and this is probably better for learning for most students. It is not always valuable. Small classes filled with students who do not talk or who have not done the assigned reading are no better than lecture classes. My wife went back to school as an adult and went to a local state college. In many classes, she was one of the few students who talked in class, so for her, it was just like a small seminar.

Betsy Morgan
Founder College Matters LLC

Just The Stats...

Average class size; student to faculty ratio - I have never been on a campus tour or in an information session where these statistics have not been touted. However, there are simply too many factors which can alter this statistic. How many professors are on sabbatical? Are professors allowed to “buy out” of teaching assignments to research? How many classes does each professor teach; how many do students take? Is the majority of the campus in the same department with huge classes, while the less popular majors have very few? Ask good questions in order to find out what size YOUR classes are likely to be.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Class Size

The size of an applicant's high school class matters to some extent, for it provides a relative measure. However, colleges do not prefer an applicant from a smaller school over a larger school. The reason is that there are so many measures of a candidate's effectiveness. These include course selection, recommendations, test scores and activities about which a student is passionate. Schools vary so much not only in terms of size but in terms of resources and geographic diversity, among other factors. So students should not believe any statements in a vacuum relative to class size.

Ms. Marytherese Ryan
National Certified Counselor/Independent Contractor Ryan Consulting

Student Teacher ratio is important!

You need to know your personal learning style. Are you competitive? If so, then you will want to stand out, be able to listen to your professor AND be heard. Colleges with smaller class sizes will meet your needs for interactive learning. If you are a more passive learner who enjoys soaking in information, then a larger class size or auditorium-style classroom will be for you.

Sterling Peterson

Class Size Matters

Paying for an education is expensive. You want the most out of your classes. Smaller classes give you a more personal relationship with the professor. Larger classes tend to be more generic in information and not specialized to the student. A good relationship depends on understanding from both sides. Make sure you get the best shot to hear and be heard. Smaller classes equal a more personalized education.

Patty Gibbs
Vice President for Student Affiars & Dean of Students Wesleyan College

Class size does matter

Class size matter, depending on your learning style and what motivates you as a learner. If you enjoy lecture style classes, large lecture halls might be your thing. If you like discussion based learning and interaction with your faculty member, I'd suggest smaller class sizes of 20. It's also important to consider your personal motivation. Are you more likely to skip class if you are a number or a face in the crowd? Will you focus on you work and be prepared for each class if you are in a smaller class?

Maura Kastberg
Executive Director of Student Services RSC

Understanding yourself is More Important than Size

When students think about class size they need to relate what that size means to them. Large classes can be impersonal, have a higher level of competition, and you may have to struggle for resources. With a smaller class size you may be friendlier with your teacher and the competition may not be as stiff but the smaller classroom is frequently less diverse and there is more conformity. One or the other is not necessarily better it depends most on the student and how they fit into the setting. If the student craves anonymity and is very competitive they may feel stifled in the smaller class but a student that needs more interaction with their teacher and a gentler approach would probably perform better in the smaller classroom, and finding the place where the student can perform to thier potential is really the key.

Marilyn Fettner
President Fettner Career Consulting

What's the best class size for you?

Based upon my training, experience, knowledge about how learning occurs, and feedback from students, class size does matter. The best advice is to know your learning style and the conditions under which you learn best. Of course, the smaller the class size, the better the chance the instructor will have more time to answer your questions and provide explanations and examples to help you grasp the material. Also, if you're more extroverted, you may be energized by a larger class size. On the other hand, if you're more introverted, you will probably be more comfortable, less distracted, and more apt to ask questions, in a smaller size class.

Tyler Burton
President Burton College Tours

Sit in on a class

When students are choosing which schools that they will apply to they must consider what type of classroom setting they learn best in. This is part of identifying a good academic fit. Most high school students have never attended a large lecture class and many students have never sat in a classroom with 15 students. Begin your school visits early in your junior year of high school and visit different colleges with large class size and small class size. Schedule a class visit ahead of time by calling the admissions office of that school. It would be best if you asked to speak with the admission representative from your area to both introduce yourself and to learn how you should proceed in scheduling a class visit.