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Advantages & Disadvantages of Big & Small Colleges

by Neil Kokemuller, studioD

When picking a college, students have a wide array of options. One consideration for some students is the size of the school. You often have choices ranging from student bodies as small as a few hundred to large universities with 20,000 to 40,000 students. There are pros and cons to consider when choosing between big and small schools, but the right fit depends on your personality, goals and comfort as a student.

Big College Advantages

A major benefit of a big college is greater access to extracurricular activities and events, including academic and activity clubs, sporting events, Greek life and social engagements. You also have access to a large and broad base of current students and alumni, which helps in building peer and professional networks. Larger schools also tend to offer greater brand recognition when you go look for jobs, and faculty often carry strong reputations in their fields.

Big College Disadvantages

It is easy to get lost in the sea of students at a large school. Some classes have several hundred students crammed in a lecture hall, making intimate relationships with professors challenging. Some classes are taught by grad assistants rather than full professors. You also have fewer opportunities, or at least lower statistical probability, of gaining leadership positions in clubs or student government. For some students, it is simply very intimidating to walk around a campus with thousands of students each day.

Small College Advantages

The small-town culture of a small college is appealing to many students. You can often get to know most of your classmates and students at a school with a few thousand students or less. Classes usually have 25 or fewer students, allowing for strong peer connections and close interaction with professors. You can walk the campus and use facilities without feeling crowded. Small colleges also tend to function more as a small community, and students may have access to greater out-of-class learning opportunities.

Small College Disadvantages

Small schools often lack the big-name credentials of major colleges and universities. Faculty may also be less recognized in their fields. Fewer sports and extracurricular opportunities usually exist at small colleges. The number of major programs and classes are also limited. Plus, while you have more ability to stand out in social circles, you have more limited access to major social events and activities.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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