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Pros + Cons of Different College Sizes

DeepRun31DeepRun31 Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
edited February 2007 in College Search & Selection
This is obviously going to be a factor in anyone's college decision, and I am still trying to figure out what would be good for me. I do not know the true advantages and disadvantages of going to a large school, and then the same with going to a small school, or something in-between.

Anyone please add comments about what they think is good and bad about the different school sizes (Small- under 5,000, medium/large 5,000-20,000, and then huge schools up to even 40,000 and above).

I know alot is personal preference, but I just want to make the right choice for when I go to school for the best experiance possible. Anything helps. Thanks.
Post edited by DeepRun31 on

Replies to: Pros + Cons of Different College Sizes

  • kyledavid80kyledavid80 Registered User Posts: 8,093 Senior Member
    I've often wondered the same about myself. Berkeley has around 30k students, while Stanford has around 15k. They say that at a larger university, it's next to impossible to get attention from professors, but I've heard many Cal students refute this. I'm really not sure which I'd prefer... (i.e., I'll wait for other responses :P).
  • TarhuntTarhunt Registered User Posts: 2,138 Senior Member
    There are differences depending on particular schools, but here's a quick, general breakdown.

    Under 5000 -- Actually, most LACs are 2,500 or so and under. So that's the first natural break. These schools exist for one reason: to educate undergraduates. That's their raison d'etre. They focus on this exclusively and, in my opinion, that focus tends to pay off in a better educational experience for most undergrads. Class sizes tend to be small. Students tend to know their professors. Professors do some research and they depend on undergrads to help them with it. When it comes time to get a recommendation or two for grad school, students are more likely to get something personal and meaningful from a professor who actually knows them.

    The drawbacks are that the number of departments is limited, the number of classes is limited, and one cannot opt into grad courses because there are none.

    2,500 to 5,000 -- Generally, these schools have some graduate departments, so the entire focus isn't on undergrad education. Still, schools of this size usually have small classes and the vast majority of faculty teach them. Research is often less available to undergrads.

    On the other hand, schools of this size tend to have larger libraries than the LACs. They may have a few other extras, such as observatories, nuclear reactors, or what have you. There are some grad courses in some disciplines, and some undergrads can get into them.

    5,000 to 20,000 -- This is a huge range. 20,000 is a fairly large school, while 5,000 is going to feel much more intimate. Basically, as you move up the numbers, classes (especially entry-level ones) get larger, the number of grad students gets larger, the class offerings get larger, and resources (assuming they are available to you) become more available.

    Typically, as you get to 10,000 and above, you start to get the HUGE undergrad courses in things like psych, econ, chemistry, biology, etc. these courses can run 500 students or more. Personally, I believe you can learn as much from a DVD of the lecture as you can from actually attending. There are typically breakout and/or lab sections, and these are run by teaching assistants, who are grad students. Upper level courses tend to be smaller, but it's still common to have class sizes of 40+ which means that most of these things are pure lectures.

    Mega universities -- Here you get famous faculty (in some cases) that you will probably never see. Many of these schools almost completely remove the teaching burden from top researchers so that they can focus on research and, more importantly, research grants. There are typically more courses, more student clubs, big time sports, more impersonality, etc. About what you'd expect.

    These are stereotypes, only. There are exceptions. Many of them.
  • Cards4LifeCards4Life Registered User Posts: 1,211 Senior Member
    I'm at a large university (23k undergrads) and have had no problem getting attention from professors. I usually sit in within the first 10 rows towards the middle and most look in that area the most. They won't know your name unless you sit in the first row or two every day or introduce yourself though. I sit in the front row of my business law lecture (over 280 students) and the prof knows my name and a few of the other people I sit by and uses us as examples of cases/situations. Outside of class, its up to YOU to seek out the professor during office hours to say Hi and get to know them. I've used this comparison on CC before, but I say that it's alot like when you get out into the real world, possibly working for a large company. If you want to get that promotion, you have to network, and SEEK OUT people who may be able to help you along the way. Seeking out advice or getting to know a prof is alot more relaxed than in the professional setting and they'll be able to write a good recommendation or whatever when you need one.

    I love the big time athletics of my school. Huge, loud crowds, D-I athletes, it's great. I've been to a few games at small schools (D-III and NAIA) to watch HS friends compete and the crowds were the same size, if not even smaller than those at my high school games. It's exciting for me, but I'm a sports buff.

    I also like the fact that there are over 800 campus clubs/organizations to join and be active in. There's always something going on on-campus and people to meet.

    But you're right, it's all about personal preference. Some feel more comfortable at a small school, I love my big school. To each his own.

    BTW, this topic has been mentioned in several other threads and if you do a search you might get some good responses from existing threads.
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