College Sizes: Small, Medium, or Large? (2023)

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College Sizes: Small, Medium, or Large? (1)

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The size of a college or university – its campus, its student body, and its academic programs – can definitely affect your college experience. Here are some different aspects of large colleges, small colleges, and medium-sized colleges to keep in mind as you make your college list.

How do you know what size college is best for you? A large university can feel overwhelming to some students, and exciting to others, while a small college can feel friendly, comfortable, or isolating, depending on who you ask. You might want the feel of a large university with thousands of fans cheering on the school team, or feel more at home chatting with a few friends over coffee on a campus where you know most students by name.

There are pros and cons to the size of college you choose, and it’s important to understand the ways in which large, small, and medium-sized schools differ and which qualities appeal to you – or don’t. This article will discuss various aspects of college size and how to decide what’s right for you.

Which Colleges Are Considered Small, Medium, or Large?

  • According to the Carnegie Classification of colleges and universities, colleges considered "small" have fewer than 5,000 students.These are typically private colleges like Colgate, Grinnell, and Reed. Yet, it is entirely possible to find small public colleges, such as SUNY Geneseo and Delaware State University.
  • Many colleges fall into the "medium" category, between 5,000 to 15,000 students. For example, Yale, Brown, Howard, Duke, University of Arkansas, University of Montana, and Binghamton University are all medium-sized.
  • "Large" usually means more than 15,000 students.University of Southern California, New York University, and University of Pennsylvania qualify as large on the private side; UCLA, Michigan State, and University of Texas at Austin on the public side. A label of "huge" would be more accurate for those public universities that have more than 30,000 students, such as University of Michigan and University of California Berkeley.

You can look up the profiles of these and more than 2,000 colleges and universities using CollegeData’s College Search.

College Sizes: Small, Medium, or Large? (4)

SOME PROS and COns OF SMALL Colleges and Large COLLEGES

What are some of the classic advantages and disadvantages of small, medium, and large colleges? Smaller schools, as a rule, are known for their tight-knit communities. You can get to know many people in a small school and see familiar faces whether you are in the library, the cafeteria, the quad, or in class. Because the community is small, it can be easier to develop long-lasting relationships with professors and staff. This doesn’t mean you can’t develop relationships with professors or be part of a tight-knit community at a large university – but it might be easier to do these things at a small college.

(Video) big vs. small colleges | comparing experiences across school sizes

However, a smaller college may offer fewer academic majors and programs than a larger school, as well as fewer social opportunities, activities, and events. In a small, tight-knit community, you’re likely to see the same faces frequently, and it’s not so easy to avoid people you’d rather not see.

Large colleges are more likely than smaller colleges to have a wide variety of majors, research facilities, graduate schools, well-known faculty and Division I sports teams, and they can connect students with a large alumni network.

You are also more likely to find lecture-style classes at bigger schools – some with hundreds or even a thousand students. In these classes, it can be harder to get to know or stand out to professors and you’ll have competition when it comes to speaking up in class. Some large universities might be more bureaucratic when it comes to changing majors, adding/dropping classes, taking classes outside your major, and accessing advisory and academic support.

Many students find that medium-sized colleges have it all. They can be small enough to easily find friends and participate in social activities, and big enough to offer a large number of academic options. Some will have qualities of large universities and others will have more qualities of small colleges. But just like small and large colleges, they can vary widely in other ways, so be sure to do your due diligence and visit a few medium-sized schools, if you can.

College Size can be misleading

Some aspects of “big” and “small” colleges can be misleading. For example, the size of the undergraduate population at a large university may be much smaller than you think. Harvard University has a combined graduate and undergraduate student population of more than 20,000, but the undergraduate college has only about 6,600 students.

You might find large classes at any size college, especially in introductory courses. It’s helpful to look at the number of super large or very small classes you might encounter as an undergraduate to get a more realistic picture of what you might experience. You can find this information in many of CollegeData’s College Profiles, which you can access with our College Search tool. The College Profiles present the distribution of class sizes across undergraduate courses offered at the college. Below is data for UCLA reported for the 2020-2021 academic year. While UCLA would be considered a huge college with more than 30,000 undergraduates, students there encounter classes of all sizes.

College Sizes: Small, Medium, or Large? (5)

How a small college can feel large and vice versa

Of course, it’s possible to find some of the advantages of a large college at a small school and vice versa. For example, universities featuring large lecture-style classes almost always include access to small-group discussions and review sessions where students, teaching assistants and professors can get to know each other. University honors programs may provide a small-class – and a small-college – environment as well. Smaller colleges might also feature large lecture-style classes, especially in introductory subjects.

(Video) Small, Medium or Large- Finding the Right Size in your College Fit - IACAC

Students often think that small colleges have limited social scenes, research opportunities or academic offerings. But some small schools join with other colleges and universities to provide more of these resources and experiences. For example, the seven Claremont Colleges in California, each with fewer than 3,000 students, and the 5 Colleges Consortium in Massachusetts, which includes the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with more than 24,000 students and four colleges with fewer than 5,000 students, share academic departments, cultural programs, research facilities, transportation, and libraries.

And when it comes to sports, big schools don’t have the lock on school spirit. Many small and medium-sized schools have intensely competitive rivalries with other colleges in their division and have students that passionately support their sports teams alongside the local community and alumni.

What’s The Perfect Size College for you?

Deciding among large, medium-sized and small colleges often comes down to the social environment you prefer. Knowing whether you feel more comfortable as "a small fish in a big pond" or a "big fish in a small pond" can help you decide. Do you like the idea of being known to a small community, or would you like to experience being anonymous among a throng of students? Your high school experience can also give you an idea of what you might like or not like in a small college or large college.

Other college qualities may be more important to you than student body size. If that's the case, you might put a mix of small, medium and large colleges on your application list. But if the number of students on campus or in a class significantly affects your comfort level, or certain aspects of a small college or big college experience appeal to you, put college size among your top college requirements. Then, if you can, validate your impressions by visiting colleges of different sizes, and keep an open mind. You might become more comfortable with a larger or smaller college as you explore and compare more campuses.

You can search for colleges by student body size with CollegeData’s College Search.

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What is considered a small medium and large college? ›

For both universities and colleges, a population size is considered small when it has under 5,000 students and large when it has over 15,000 students.

What is a medium college size? ›

Medium Size Colleges

“Medium” colleges have student populations between 5,000 and 15,000 students. There is a good mix of public and private colleges that fall in the medium-size category. Some examples of medium colleges include Yale, Stanford, and the University of Montana.

Is it better to go to a small or large college? ›

Small colleges often provide greater opportunities for interacting with professors and class discussion, while larger colleges frequently offer a greater variety of courses and programs and more opportunities for undergrads to get involved in faculty research projects.

Why are medium sized colleges better? ›

Student life

These colleges are full to the brim with student organizations, campus activities and residence life events. Mid-sized colleges always have something going on for students. But like daily life on campus, you won't be lost in the masses. If you don't have a friend to accompany you to an event, go anyway.

What is a normal college class size? ›

Question 1: What is the average college class size? Average college class size at a community college is between 25 to 35 students while at a 4-year university program it can be as big as 150 to 300.

What is the difference between a small college and a large college? ›

The most common differences between large and small schools are the campus sizes and the student-to-faculty ratios. The campus at Arizona State University, four on the list of largest universities with 55,552 students, covers 1,964 acres and has a student-to-faculty ratio of 23:1.

What is a small sized college? ›

As you begin your college search, one of the first decisions you need to make — and one that helps narrow your list — is what size college you want to attend. U.S. colleges offer many options, from small colleges with fewer than 1,000 students to large state universities with more than 35,000 students.

What size does college use? ›

Official College Footballs (Size 9, Ages 14 & up)

Big Game's competitive footballs are the exact dimensions set down by the NCAA – approximately 10.5 to 11.5 inches in length, with a circumference of roughly 27.75 inches on the long side of the ball and 20.75 inches on the short side.

What are small class sizes in college? ›

Typically, small colleges equal small classes, usually with two-thirds of a student's classes having 20 or fewer students.

What are the pros and cons of a medium sized college? ›

Medium colleges are attractive to students who want a mix of both. You reap the benefits of easily finding friends and partaking in social activities, but the school is not overwhelmingly large or too small. On the other hand, you might find them to be not as diverse as you'd like, or not as intimate as you'd like.

Is it OK to go to a small college? ›

If you prefer to interact directly with your peers and professors, a smaller college is likely right for you. Small classes allow students to get to know their peers and professors. They offer—with their lower teacher-to-student ratios—a completely different learning environment than a typical college lecture hall.

Are smaller class sizes better for students? ›

Because students are likely to learn better in small classes, increasing class sizes is not recommended. However, teaching in small classes needs to be reconceptualised if it is to be properly effective – the pedagogy needs to either change or improve, and this requires professional development (Hattie, 2012).

Is Harvard a medium sized school? ›

Harvard College is a medium, 4-year, private university. This coed college is located in a city in an urban setting and is primarily a residential campus.

What is the advantage of large college? ›

Larger colleges have more resources and more majors. If you major in a subject like business, you'll find that you can study more topics like human resources management and supply chain management. Larger campuses also offer more unique minors like film studies, social work, business administration and criminology.

Why are small class sizes better in university? ›

According to a University of California study, results have shown that students in small classes are more engaged in their lessons and, as a result, also perform better on tests, compared to students that typically have lower achievement.

What is a large college class size? ›

Many colleges fall into the "medium" category, between 5,000 to 15,000 students. For example, Yale, Brown, Howard, Duke, University of Arkansas, University of Montana, and Binghamton University are all medium-sized. "Large" usually means more than 15,000 students.

What is Harvard typical class size? ›

Despite how big is Harvard University's enrollment rate, the average number of students per Harvard class is 12.

Does class size matter in college? ›

Research suggests that students perform better in smaller classes. There's little debate among teachers that class size matters. One survey found that nine in 10 teachers said that smaller classes would strongly boost student learning.

Is Harvard a big or small college? ›

Harvard is a large, highly residential research university offering 50 undergraduate majors, 134 graduate degrees, and 32 professional degrees. During the 2018–2019 academic year, Harvard granted 1,665 baccalaureate degrees, 1,013 graduate degrees, and 5,695 professional degrees.

What is a good sized college? ›

The size of colleges is typically broken down as follows: small (less than 3,000-4,000 students), mid-size (between 5,000-10,000 students), large (10,000-15,000 students) or extra-large, (15,000+ students, which can be upwards of 35,000+ undergraduate students at the largest of schools).

What are the benefits of a small college? ›

Here are just a few of the advantages of going to a smaller college affords.
  • Smaller Class Sizes.
  • More One-On-One Interaction with Professors.
  • Less Competition for Financial Aid.
  • Stronger Sense Of Community.
  • Greater Curriculum Flexibility.
May 6, 2022

What is your class size? ›

Class size refers to the total number of students in each classroom. Depending upon class size, the teachers may divide the students by making an active learning classroom, where they engage the students in deep learning activities rather than surface learning.

How do I choose a college fit? ›

Important College Fit Factors
  1. Diversity & Intensity of Academics.
  2. Size of School & Program(s) of Interest.
  3. Research Opportunities.
  4. School Culture.
  5. Sports & Extracurricular Opportunities.
  6. Discover your chances at hundreds of schools.
  7. Affordability.
  8. Location & Distance from Home.
Feb 24, 2022

What point scale do colleges use? ›

High schools often report GPA (grade point average) on a 4.0 scale. The top grade is an A, which equals 4.0. You calculate your overall GPA by averaging the scores of all your classes. This is a common scale used at most colleges, and many high schools also use it.

What size are college sheets? ›

The majority of dorm room beds are actually a Twin XL size, which measures in at a full 5" longer than a standard Twin. Don't spend your entire time away at school stretching and pulling a too-small fitted sheet over your mattress.

What is the best class size? ›

Researchers generally agree a class size of no larger than 18 students is required to produce the desired benefit. You read that right—the ideal class size is 18 kids.

Are small colleges better for introverts? ›

On the face of it, a small college would seem to be a more hospitable environment for an introvert, but small colleges can also be socially intense, especially if they're in small towns where everything interesting happens on campus. At a large university, there may be a greater array of extracurricular options.

What are the cons of small class sizes? ›

Smaller classes require additional classrooms, calling for construction or renovation. School districts may not have the resources to provide additional classrooms. Also, some question whether a mandate to hire more teachers will cause the hiring of under-qualified teachers.

Are large class sizes better? ›

The advantage of large class size is that in large class teaching, students' different backgrounds can bring about the collision of different ideas; students can learn from each other and promote each other.

Does class size affect mental health? ›

Having too many students in a classroom might also stimulate fear and anxiety in students due to a lack of engagement, feelings of disconnect and isolation, and a lack of meaningful interactions.

Is Yale a medium size school? ›

Yale University is a large research university with a wide array of programs, departments, schools, centers, museums, and many affiliated organizations.

What GPA is required for Harvard? ›

You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as Harvard, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application.

What is the #1 university in the world? ›

Harvard University

Why does the size of a college matter? ›

Bigger College = Bigger Everything:

Universities typically offer a grand scale of majors, ranging from the fine arts to science to business. Also, because larger sized college accommodate a bigger student body, academic events such as lectures are very common.

What are the disadvantages of large schools? ›

Some negatives of a large school include: large class sizes (at least in the first two years—even larger universities usually have smaller classes in upper division courses); courses taught by teaching assistants or graduate students rather than professors; difficulty accessing professors; professors who prioritize ...

What does student at large mean? ›

Students who are interested in taking courses for credit (i.e., for four-year-institution preparation, career development, or personal interest) without the intent of completing a degree or certificate are considered Students at Large.

Does class size affect academic performance? ›

In examining the negative effects of class size, findings indicated that big or small class size has an impact on students' performance and students do not perform well in big classes as it caused resources to be inadequate, lowers student performance, and ineffective classroom instructions.

Why are large class sizes a problem? ›

Larger classrooms lead to less student participation. Larger classrooms often times lead to more disruptive students. Larger classrooms result in less attention from the teacher leaving the students with unanswered questions.

Do smaller class sizes increase student achievement? ›

“The research is crystal clear that smaller classes lead to better student outcomes in every single way that can be measured,” says Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit that advocates for smaller class sizes. But results from more recent studies using different methods have been mixed.

What is considered a small class in college? ›

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a college, and class size is one. Typically, small colleges equal small classes, usually with two-thirds of a student's classes having 20 or fewer students.

What is considered small college? ›

Benefits of attending a small university or college

Small schools generally have less than 5,000 students. The student body population can range from as little as 900 students, up to 5,000. Some NCAA schools even have as little as 2,000 students!

What is a large college class called? ›

Lecture-Style Classes

These are large classes held in a lecture hall, a theater-like room that may seat hundreds of students. The professor talks for the entire class while students take notes. Lecture classes are common in first-year courses.

What are large class sizes? ›

What is a Large Class? Large classes are typically considered those held in large 'lecture' halls and often hold 75 or more students.

Why are college classes so small? ›

Smaller Classes Provide Individualized Instruction

When there are fewer students in class, you get to know your professors and they get to know you—by name. They can provide you with individualized attention and personalized feedback on your academic performance.

Why smaller colleges are better? ›

Small colleges and universities, or institutions with 1,000 students or less, offer students a more intimate experience. Classes are small and less likely to be held in large lecture halls. In fact, students are more likely to develop relationships with their professors and connect with other students on campus.

What do you call a freshman in college? ›

A freshman, fresher, first year, or frosh, is a person in the first year at an educational institution, usually a secondary school or at the college and university level, but also in other forms of post-secondary educational institutions.

What are the sizes of universities? ›

Which Colleges Are Considered Small, Medium, or Large?
  • According to the Carnegie Classification of colleges and universities, colleges considered "small" have fewer than 5,000 students. ...
  • Many colleges fall into the "medium" category, between 5,000 to 15,000 students. ...
  • "Large" usually means more than 15,000 students.
Nov 18, 2020


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