Does class size matter?

College Search

Our counselors answered:

Does class size matter?

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.

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.

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?

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

To Each His Own

Small classes may be important for students who value discussion-based learning or for whom background noise is distracting. Meanwhile, some students may relish in the opportunity to hang back and let the professor do the heavy learning lifting at the front of the lecture hall. Think hard about how you best learn. Choose schools that offer opportunities that match your ideal.

Jennifer Tabbush

Class size

Whether or not class size matters is a very individual thing and also depends greatly on what subject you are studying. For example, a large English class just doesn't work; you need to be able to talk with the professor and fellow students and engage in a lively discussion of literature. For psychology, maybe a bigger class isn't such a negative. Know that even at very large universities, when you get into classes in your major junior and senior year you are not likely to find any classes above about 60 students. How can you make big class feel smaller? Sit towards the front of the room. Go to office hours to talk with your professor. Go to the TA sections and talk with your TA about the class. Form study groups with other students in the class.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

Class Size

Class size does matter. Many first-year introductory classes will have a larger number of students, but the actual size of the "large" classes varies from one institution to another. This is an important aspect to consider when researching schools. Some universities break down their larger classes into smaller seminars or tutorial groups as a follow-up to the large group lecture. Find out what is done at the colleges you're looking at. Ideally students will have a chance, not just to listen to a lecture, but to process the material through discussions in which they can actively take part.



For some students entering college, the number of students in each of their prospective classes is an important issue. Large lecture classes, with hundreds of students, aren't for everyone. Conversely, there are students who thrive on the energy of groups, who can even become motivated by the inherent competition. Others do well in both situations, and enjoy the variety. Therefore, as with many issues surrounding the choice of the right college, the issue of class size is personal. Know yourself, know your child, know the school. Then act on that information.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Does class size matter?

Your engagement, involvement, and participation as a member of the class matter much more than the size of the class. Of course - if you are in a smaller class -- it will be much easier to participate in class discussions, engage with the professor and other students, and obtain answers to any questions you may have. These things are much harder to achieve in a large lecture environment. However, even if you are in a large class, that should not stop you from stopping by a professor's office hours and participating in discussions before, during and after class!


Class size is a BIG deal!

Class size matters probably more than cost! Truly, what is the purpose of going to college if you can't learn because the class a packed lecture hall that doesn't work for your style of learning? The fact of the matter is that some students just can't learn well from large classrooms while to others the size of the class doesn't matter. If you are the type of student who typically likes to be able to ask questions of your professors and friends in your class, beware of the average class size when looking into colleges. Don't be fooled by brochure average class sizes either. Some schools will boast that they have small class sizes, but when freshman arrive to school they never see them in a general education course. To avoid this trap, be sure to ask the key question "How many students are typically in your largest classes on campus?" Take this advice and you will be sure to be a step ahead of the pack!