Does College Size Matter?

This blog post is provided by the Unigo Expert Network, a group of top education experts from across the U.S. answering questions submitted by students and parents about college admissions and succeeding after high school. To have your questions answered visit www.unigo.com/expertquestions

“My brother keeps telling me that I should consider size as I start applying to schools but I’m not sold – what makes a school large or small, and what are some of the more subtle advantages/disadvantages of both?”– John W., Portland, OR

Colleges’ Sizes Can Be Deceptive- - It's More Than a Numbers Game Yolanda Watson Spiva, Executive Director, Project GRAD Atlanta 

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 that 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.

Larger May Be Better Nancy McDuff, Associate Vice President for Admissions & Enrollment Management, University of Georgia

In their college searches, students are often limited in their experiences based on what their high schools are like and they narrow their college choices based on what they think they know.  A good student can find success in any environment, large, medium or small. But students can optimize their experiences when they have the most options.  Large universities provide a broader range of types of students to know and learn alongside.  Not only breadth of majors, but depth in the academic areas will be more prevalent at a large school.  Opportunities to take leadership roles will expand as the number of student run organizations increases, as will the scope of potential items to add to the student’s resume.

What Works for You? Danny Reynolds, Director of College Counseling, Palmer Trinity School

Colleges are considered “small” when they have fewer than 5,000 students, “mid-sized” between 5,000 and 15,000 students, and so on. When considering size, contemplate what kind of learning environment and social setting you’re seeking. If you like being surrounded by familiar faces and want intimate, discussion-based classes from the start, go with a smaller school. At larger schools, you’ll have an abundance of social opportunities, which is great for the student who will take it upon his/herself to find his/her niche. In addition, intro level courses are large and often taught by TAs, but become smaller as students begin to specialize.

Colleges are considered “small” when they have fewer than 5,000 students, “mid-sized” between 5,000 and 15,000 students, and so on. When considering size, contemplate what kind of learning environment and social setting you’re seeking. If you like being surrounded by familiar faces and want intimate, discussion-based classes from the start, go with a smaller school. At larger schools, you’ll have an abundance of social opportunities, which is great for the student who will take it upon his/herself to find his/her niche. In addition, intro level courses are large and often taught by TAs, but become smaller as students begin to specialize.

Get the full story from 35 more experts -- including the Dean of Admissions at University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan University, and more -- at www.unigo.com/expertnetwork. To send your question to our experts, visit www.unigo.com/expertquestions

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