What makes a school large or small and what are some advantages and disadvantages of each?

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Our counselors answered:

What makes a school large or small and what are some advantages and disadvantages of each?

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair High School

What makes a school large or small and what are some advantages and disadvantages of each?

Small schools are generally more intense social and academic experiences. You see the same people all the time and are in a true community. Large schools are about the diversity of the experience and the people.

Mary Ann Willis

Goldilocks was right . . .

One size doesn’t fit all. Need close-knit community? Love a crowd? Have heart palpitations when you walk into a class of 600? Want to crawl under a desk if it is just you and twelve others in class? Knowing yourself helps determine your college-size comfort zones. Larger universities generally have more offerings—in and out of class. Smaller colleges tout close student-professor relationships. Any size college can have great class options and mentoring. Consider factors besides size: Too far? Too near? Too hot? Too cold? Too specialized? There are many college options that might be just right

Joanne Levy-Prewitt

“Universe-ity” offers a world of academic and social options for independent students

A large university can be perfect for many students. Large universities are like a “universe” and offer a wide variety of social options, majors and academic programs for undergraduate and graduate students. For example, UC Berkeley houses the Department of Demography, eight majors with “Bio” as a prefix, and seven programs that study the environment! Large universities have well-established job recruitment and career placement services, and since most large universities are public, the tuition and fees are affordable for working students and families. Students who are interested in a large school should be mature, independent, and willing to self-advocate to get the attention, assistance and classes required to thrive and graduate.

Yolanda Spiva
Executive Director Project GRAD Atlanta, Inc.

Colleges sizes can be deceptive; it's more than a numbers game

Don't let the number of students in attendance intimidate you from looking at a college that has lots of students, or a smaller one which you think may not have lots of majors or courses to offer. Many large colleges have smaller academic departments that provide more intimate interaction with other students as well as faculty. Likewise, most small colleges tend to have a variety of majors and courses to appeal to its diverse student body. In large and small schools, alike, you are likely to take core courses with larger numbers of students, until you begin taking your major courses. Let your goals for your major and extracurricular activities serve as your priority rather than school size.

Leigh Anne Spraetz

When developing your college list, size is an important factor to consider

A large university has much to offer, including many clubs, internships, course offerings, majors, and of course, people to meet. For the independent extrovert, a large school may be just what is needed. However, if it is important to a student to have smaller class sizes, to know their professors well or to have a smaller environment in order to feel confident getting involved, a smaller school can be a good fit. Getting involved is how you make a larger environment feel smaller. Attend the clubs/organizations Open House, and find 1-2 activities that interest you. Be careful not to get overly involved while learning to balance the social and academic life of college.

Amy Foley

In finding the right college fit, size does matter

Some dream of “Big State U” with all of the spirit and trappings a large campus (and athletic program) bring. Others rhapsodize over an intimate academic experience to be found on a lovely little liberal arts campus.  My advice is to stop daydreaming and start visiting. Get out there and see if the feel of the big or the little or, gasp, something in between is right for you.  Even better, test drive a campus through a summer college program. Pros and cons abound.  What’s key is figuring out where you fit in and which campus fits you best.

Lisa Carlton
Owner www.collegematchpoint.com

Large colleges equals options, options, options

Some feel huge classes and uncaring administrators are par for the course on a large campus, but there are some great advantages to a bigger college.  The range of academic and social opportunities is much greater on a big campus.  Students have the chance to choose more specialized majors and programs.  This can be especially important for a student who has a specific career goal. For example, if the student wants to pursue sports marketing or biomedical engineering, he or she will need a highly specialized department. One of the keys to succeeding on a large campus is to learn about the variety of programs available and to jump in and get involved.

Christopher Haring

How do you learn best?

My advice is to think hard about how you learn best.  Do you like smaller classes with lots of interaction?  Do you want close relationships with your professors?  Do you want classes that are organized seminar style or are you fine with a primarily lecture format?  All of these bear on what kind of learning environment will be best for you--larger or smaller, rural or urban, public or private, etc.  Start with your internal landscape and how you learn best, and that will help with the decision about college size, location, etc.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Small, Large . . . Does it Really Matter?

We often hear about the advantages and disadvantages of large versus small schools. The fact is that there is tremendous overlap between the two. At a very large university, a student can be in his her own small world, depending on the choice of major or individual college within that university. Certainly, there are many small- to medium-sized colleges. Many students find these appealing because it's easy to get to know fellow students, including upperclassmen, as well as professors. That adds a tremendous amount to the feeling of community and belonging. Students get close friends and move their way up the classes with these students. At the same time, small schools do have their limitations. Sometimes, there aren't enough course offerings within a particular department, or the student's choice of departments may not even be at a small school. Some students get tired of the "same old people," and like the feel of a larger school where they can continually meet new friends. Outside of the classroom, there are generally more sports, intramurals and extracurriculars in larger schools. Then there's the whole notion of the college versus the university. Typically, though not always, a college is focused on the undergraduate, while a university may include graduate schools. Sometimes this is an advantage for the undergrad who may place out of courses and want to take grad-level courses while he or she is still an undergraduate.

Maura Kastberg
Executive Director of Student Services RSC

How big is too big?

A campus of 500 students? 5,000? 10,000+? On a large campus you can select from a variety of courses, majors activities and events. You will enjoy extensive library and lab facilities. You can be anonymous in a crowd or choose friends from many groups of people. You can pursure your own interests but may face stiffer competition for courses, grades and opportunities. You will cope with large impersonal classes, dorms, teams and campuses. At a small college you might be friendly with more teachers, find socialization easier, develop leadership roles and get easier access to the library, labs and facilities. On the other hand a small campus has less diversity and more conformity. A medium campus will be somewhere in between these two extremes.