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Big vs small universities - which is the best for you?

Good colleges and universities come in all shapes and sizes, and it can be hard to figure out which one is right for you. The larger universities, such as University of Michigan and University of Florida, can have up to 50,000 students (Miami Dade College has over 150,000!) while smaller schools, like Amherst College or Middlebury College, can be as low as 1,500.  Different sized schools have different benefits and drawbacks, and understanding these variations can help you decide where you belong. Some of the things you should consider before deciding which type of university you would like to attend are:

  • Class sizes
  • How well you get to know your professors
  • Access to clubs and activities
  • The overall student population.

1. Class Size

If you go to a larger university, the chances are your classes will have more people in them. This means that for your first few years, you may be in large lecture based classes with up to 300 other students. If you are the type of student who enjoys listening to professors speak and is not as vocal in class, this could be the thing for you. As you advance in university, your classes will get smaller in size as the subject becomes more specific, but you can definitely expect to have multiple large lecture classes. At a smaller school, you will still see large classes, but at a much lower rate. Typically, only popular introductory level classes have more than one hundred students at a time. Otherwise, more of your classes will be relatively small, with around 20 students, and they will be primarily discussion based. You will talk with students in conversations led by your professor and will be able to see other people’s perspectives on several issues. 

2. Getting to Know Your Professors

It can also be easier to develop a relationship with your professor, but larger classes allow for this as well. If you are someone who would have a better time engaging in dialogue during class and having an opportunity to know your teachers, smaller schools may be where you want to start looking. Either choice will give you a great education and teach you a lot on the path to earning your bachelors degree.

3. Clubs and Activities

When you go to a larger university, there will inevitably be more activities  to get involved in. There will be clubs that are more focused, and there will be a more diverse range of groups. Big schools also typically have a larger greek life presence and higher turnouts to athletic events, but it really depends more on the specific university. They often have larger party scenes as well, but this can actually make it difficult to get into parties if you are not involved in the group throwing them. From sports teams to religious groups, there will likely be more offerings at big schools, but this does not mean that these colleges are superior. Even at small schools, where there are fewer clubs, nearly all students find something to engaged themselves in, outside of class. There will still be a wide variety of activities, and new students are always welcome to join. The size of these groups will also likely be smaller and more intimate. Whether you choose a big or a small school, you will easily be able to find extra curricular activities to join.

4. Student Body

One of the most important things to consider when thinking about the size of the university you want to attend is the culture of the student body. Each school has a different feeling to it, and a larger or smaller campus definitely contributes to what that aura is. At a bigger college, you will be less likely to run into your friends when  walking from one place to another, whereas at a smaller one, this happens frequently. This can often give smaller universities a more friendly feel, as you know more of the people, who you happen to see around, but either way, you will have friends and acquaintances who you can meet up with whenever you want. Whether you choose a big or small school size is completely up to you to decide. These are only a few of the factors that the choice will affect, but no matter which option you select, you can have a great time and receive an excellent education. 

To find out which school is right for you, go ahead and try GradTrain's admissions predictor!


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