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

As part our College Q & A guide, we decided to ask your questions to the experts. Here are their answers.

Sarah Contomichalos, Manager, Educational Advisory Services, LLC

What makes a school large or small to an applicant is the applicant’s frame of reference. A student coming from a high school with 4,000+ students may find a college of the same size to be similar or even too small while a student coming from a high school of 300 students may find a college with 4,000 students to be much bigger. Size alone may not determine a student’s experience at college. So much depends on class size and how the colleges are organzied. Are students split up into residential colleges where they spend all four years? Are most classes held as large lectures or smaller seminiars. In terms of advantages and disadvantages, again size does not always correlate. For example some of the small liberal arts colleges have incredible athletic and research facilities which one might expect to find only at large schools and some large schools may cap class size below a smaller college. Which college is the right size for you? Only you can decide once you done your research and taken into account your personal priorities.


Are you ‘the bigger the better’ or ‘good things come in small packages’ person? What are the advantages of small school or a big university? Here are some factors to consider, but note it’s not always black and white, there will always be exceptions: Larger class sizes at bigger schools Less of a selection of course and program offerings at small schools More diversity and international students at large schools Student quality may be lower at small schools Faculty at large schools may be more research focused Less well-known faculty at small schools More student-focused at small schools Less variety of support services at small schools Less extra-curricular activities, clubs, student groups, etc. at small schools More distractions at large schools Smaller alumni network at small schools The bottom line is that there are excellent large schools and excellent small colleges. There are many choices for you to consider, but first start with what might be best for you!

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