Does class size matter?

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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.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

How do you learn best?

This really depends on your learning style. Are you more comfortable being part of the crowd, absorbing the lecture without being singled out? Or, do you thrive in small class discussions and getting to know the professor more personally?

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!

Helen Cella

Does class size matter?

It depends on how you learn, if you want to interact directly with professors a smaller school may be a better option.

Lin Johnson III

Sure, if you are an attention hog!

Whether class size matter depends on what type of learning experience you want to gain in college. Small class sizes can provide personal attention from professors, more interactive classroom discussions, challenging course materials, and opportunities to dig deeper in a particular topic. Also, small class sizes are often founded at liberal arts colleges rather than national and private universities. Hence, the choice between small and large class sizes might influence your decision to attend a Big 10 university versus a New England liberal college. Admittedly, I am biased toward smaller class size as someone who went to a liberal college where there was two students in one of my advanced economics classes. However, small class size do have some disadvantages. First, smaller classes may have less diversity of ideas and experiences. Second, smaller classes are often dictated by the classroom discussion, which can feel less structured. Larger class settings are usually more guided because it would be too unwieldy to allow the class steer off track. Third, smaller class sizes allow very little room for you to come unprepared and unnoticed. If you do not enjoy being called upon or expected to contribute, a larger class size may take this pressure off your shoulders. Overall, class size is very critical and it is often overlook in the admission process. However, it can play a major factor in how enjoyable the learning experience is and how you succeed in college.

MacKenzie LeFort
Polk State College

Class Size

Class size does matter if your going to a more prestigious school. If you are going to go to a Public College/University your class size wont really matter. If you have any other questions feel free to email

Dr. Bruce Neimeyer
CEO/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

A twist on the old, “It’s not you it’s me”!

Student can begin to answer this question by knowing a little more about what their learning needs are. There are many forms of classrooms in today’s learning environment. You can have a very large class with hundreds of students, a medium sized classroom with just less than a hundred students and a very small class of twenty or less students. Keep in mind that the actual size can also be impacted by the learning environment. In many schools today they offer completely online coursework as well as hybrid courses where some of the class is online and the rest is face-to-face classroom time. Even with hundreds of students present online or in a hybrid course, the experience can be very different that the traditional classroom setting. In which of these settings would you be most comfortable asking a question? For some students it could be all, for others only one or two may fit the bill. Think about where you may be the most vocal so as to get the most out of your classroom experience. The information you will learn will be challenging enough and so layering on an uncomfortable classroom setting can spell educational disaster that comes at a real price – lost tuition dollars! Another consideration is the teacher. Some faculty are very effective in any of these arrangements and yet others are only effective in one or two. I have seen some faculty do amazing jobs in front of large lectures as if they were performing on stage! Yet in a small classroom where there is intense questioning and conversation, they are unable to go off the planned routine and they flop! Others feel self conscious about being on stage in these large classes and it is painful to watch them get through these lectures. But in the small intimate class, they are engaged like it was a nice dinner conversation. So keep in mind that beyond your ability as a student to function in these size settings, your teacher must be appropriately matched as well.

William Kole
President/Founder No Stress College Counseling

The Smaller the Better!

This is a question many students do not consider or care about during the admissions process. I recall my college counselor constantly asking me, "Do you want to be a name or a number?" At the time I found it to be the "stupidest question I had ever heard," and did not realize how important it was until I attended college. Small class sizes will give the students access to the professor, and often will help when it comes time for grades. When the professor knows the student's name and knows he or she has been a diligent student, the professor is more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. In addition, large classes will be supplemented by Teaching Assistants (TA's as they are often referred to). TA's will often times teach these classes and will be the providers of outside help, if even offered at all. While this may not seem like a big deal, students truly need to have the actual professor teaching them the material, and not a TA who may not even hold a Bachelor's degree!