Choosing Between a Large or Small College

You might be surprised that little Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, has a student population of only 900. On the flipside, Ohio State University's main campus in Columbus has well over 51,000 students. Whether you choose a massive university or a cozy college depends on several things, including your personality, desired major and courses of study, and learning style.

Big school benefits

Big schools unquestionably offer more degrees, more specialized fields of study, and a longer list of classes to choose from. Their school library systems are massive and well-stocked, and since the faculty at most major universities also conduct research in their fields of expertise, you can expect to find vast amounts of research material to enhance your coursework.

Large universities also offer their students new experiences; you'll broaden your horizons by meeting people from all over the world and from different backgrounds. You'll have a wide range housing opportunities, and the streets surrounding campus will probably have ethnic restaurants you've never considered.

Of course, large schools also offer more social activities. You'll find more social activities, more extracurricular clubs, and sports teams that garner national attention. Large universities also attract internationally recognized public speakers, the biggest rock concerts, and the best Broadway shows.

To be successful at a large university, you must have initiative. You will be largely left to your own devices to manage your education; to get your enrollment, class registration, and financial aid paperwork in order; to attend and stay awake in class; and to manage your homework. If you're not ready for this kind of independence, a smaller school might be better for you.

Small school success

When students are asked why the chose a small college, usually the number-one reason they give is class size. Not only does the idea of sitting in class with hordes of other students just sound intimidating or impersonal, but having a smaller class size gives you the opportunity to really get to know your instructors. At a small school, your classes might average around 20 students, and higher-level classes might have as few as 4 or 5 students, and your professors may take on more of a mentorship role as they get to know you and can dedicate teaching time for your individual needs.

Often, small colleges also offer students a less-regimented course load. At large universities, degrees of study might be cookie-cutter (you MUST take these five courses and choose five of these nine elective courses), but some smaller schools offer you the chance to build your own major, pursuing something that's tailored to your specific areas of interest. 

At smaller schools, students usually endure far less administrative red tape and competition for courses and benefit from much more individual advising. Your academic advisor is likely to become a friend rather than just a person who signs paperwork at the start of each semester, as can be the case in large school administrations.

Although smaller schools won't have the social outlets of major universities, there is almost always a stronger sense of community at a small college. You'll feel more of a connection to the campus and the community it resides in. You won't feel as likely to get lost in the crowd.