By Dana Elmore
When you are considering going to college or university in the United States, deciding which school to attend is a very important part of the process. One of the first ways to narrow your options is to decide whether a small or large college is right for you. Both small and large schools have their benefits and disadvantages, and no single attribute is true for all universities of a certain size. Still, learning about their general characteristics can help you make your decision.
Benefits of a small university
If you would like a more intimate learning environment, a small college or university may be perfect for you. But how small is a small university? The precise definition varies from person to person, but here we will describe a small school as having 5,000 or fewer students. Small universities and colleges can offer you the chance to get to know your fellow students and professors on a deeper level—typically with less work than at a large school. Small schools may also offer a greater number of small classes, including general education courses. Small schools can also seem cozy, in part because the campus and student body is relatively compact.
Benefits of a large university
If you would like a school with a wealth of classes, extracurricular opportunities, majors, and so on, a large college may be right for you. Large schools may have more diverse offerings, including a robust system of academic and socio-emotional support for students (though this can also be true at small colleges). Certain students prefer the anonymity of a large campus too.
Disadvantages of a small university
Although small schools can offer their students individualized attention, these colleges and universities may be a bit stifling for some students. If there is not a great deal of diversity, you may struggle to find a place where you belong. In addition, you may see one small slice of life in the United States if you stay on campus, and there may be fewer choices available to you for courses, extracurricular activities, majors, etc.
Disadvantages of a large university
One of the worst (or, depending on your perspective, best) parts of attending a large school is the anonymity. You may have several professors who do not know your name, and you may attend classes with 300 or more students in a single room. The sheer selection of opportunities can also be overwhelming. If you are forced to narrow down a plethora of options, you may have a difficult time fully committing to just one or two. Another drawback of many large universities is that there is more competition, and so you may not have as many choices in courses and extracurricular activities as it appeared at first glance.
While both small and large schools have their advantages and disadvantages, your decision of where to attend college or university will ultimately come down to your goals for your education, your reasons for coming to the United States to attend school, and your personality. If you would like an education at a school that heavily focuses on your area of interest, and you would like to get to know your professors and fellow students as a matter of course, a more intimate setting may be just what you are looking for. On the other hand, if you would like to have a wide range of choices so you can sample a little bit of everything, a larger campus may be the best choice for you. In either case, be sure to do your research before you decide which college to attend. Good luck!