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What size college is "too big?"

I am used to having teachers readily available in high school, and I find classes with 30+ students to be frustrating. However, I hate how I know everyone in high school and I hate how everyone feels "stuck" with each other (there are a little under 1,000 students total in my school). On the other hand, I want to be able to make connections with people without feeling overwhelmed.With this in mind, does anyone have any recommendation on a student body size range that I should focus on?
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Athena’s Answer

Hi Mia!

My whole education has been in small schools. What I learned is you need to understand what the best environment is for you to learn. If you prefer small class sizes to learn, that does not mean you are sacrificing making connections. My class sizes were capped at 25 people and this helped me to create connections with both the professors but also the other students as we created focus groups to support each other through all the classes. Every semester I continued to meet new people within my grade, but also other students in the various grades.
My college provided the perfect environment as we had a total college size of 5,000 students. Do some digging to understand what your learning environment needs to be and what you want to get out of your college experience. Once you can pinpoint those, you will have a better idea of school size.

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Kevin’s Answer

Hey Mia, this is a great question!

So, I went to a pretty small charter school in high school (my graduating class was 80 people) and then went to Arizona State University, where there are easily over 40,000 students on campus. So that transition was pretty wild for me, but I often found that it wasn't that overwhelming despite the large amount of people. Here's why:

1) Once you join a college/major, the amount of people you interact with and see is reduced to typically those who are in that same college/major. That helped me in not feeling too overwhelmed and actually made me feel a lot more comfortable due to the community of people. I was able to make the right connections and still meet new people, without feeling like I'm being overwhelmed.

2) I was also a part of the Honors College at ASU, meaning that I was in a community of about 5,000 honors students. Much like point 1, this had a sense of community that came along with it. I was quite skeptical about going to a university with a population of 40,000+, but the Honors College gave a more intimate sense of community.

All these points meant I was able to meet so many new people but still make good and meaningful connections. Don't be too intimidated by large populations at universities. Often times, you will find your own community and connections.

Hope this helps!

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Stephanie’s Answer

Your best bet is to go and view the campus, to get a sense of both the campus and of what you’re looking for in a campus. A small campus could mean up to 5000 students, but could feel like more or less people depending on how spread out the campus is, how many study spaces, how many recreational areas, and the capacity of lecture rooms/halls. This also partly depends on your program choice, how competitive it is and how many students are admitted into it each year. Generally speaking, first-year classes tend to have more students, as many programs have some overlap in the introductory level. This ultimately depends on how the programs are structured at each particular school. If its possible for you to see the campus, that would be best; if you are unable to do this, I would recommend contacting the school and asking questions about campus life and the general vibe of the campus. If you are able to connect with students who have graduated or are current students, this is even better; try asking the recruitment department for prospective students if they can connect you with a current student or recent alum.

Stephanie recommends the following next steps:

Tour the campus, and sit in on a lecture.
Saved!
Call the recruitment team and ask to be connected with a current student or recent graduate.
Saved!
Ask the recruitment team about how many students are enrolled in your program each year, and what the capacity is for lecture halls and classrooms.
Saved!

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Jackie’s Answer

Hello Mia!

I understand your situation completely as I went to a high school where there were only about 90- 100 students in each grade; each class ranged about the same sizes 10-22 students and I was always in the same classes with the same people. When transitioning from a smaller size school to a potential larger one is a scary thought, but it's always good to keep in mind that some colleges do offer the perfect size for you.

If you're looking for a average size school where there are only around 15-30 people to a class and 100-130 students in a lecture then I would recommend private schools or schools with the undergraduate amounts of 9,000-13,000 students.

If you're looking for a small size school where there are only 10-20 students to a class and small lectures of 100 or less then I would recommend schools with undergraduate amounts of 1,800-9,000 students.

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Angela D.’s Answer

Great question! Class size is more important than student body size. You'll find a range in this, such that some lower division general ed courses can have students of 50 to 300 or more. Often the larger classes are held in lecture halls with stadium seating, including a stage and projection screens. With courses of this size, testing is more common than essays or projects. They can also have two separate components, where you attend the lecture portion in the larger setting at one time and then a smaller discussion section in a classroom at another time or day. Seminars are usually much smaller. In addition, independent study may be available with regular meetings in your professor's office or lab. Higher division courses generally have much smaller classes because that's when you are concentrating on fulfilling the requirements for your major. There are several other aspects to consider when choosing a college as well, including cost,on campus housing, location, proximity to home and family, student associations, activities available, arts and culture, sports, etc. Wishing you the best in your endeavors, Dr. B

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Dee’s Answer

The great thing about big colleges is there's a lot to do, you can still be part of smaller groups and class sizes by researching the classes and enrolling in groups/classes that meet your needs. You may find that going to a bigger school you're able to have more opportunities to majors you would have never thought of. You may miss the small town experience but may end up loving the bigger college more than you thought.

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Sarah’s Answer

Hi there, I just recently graduated from a smaller private college that had around 3,500 undergrads. Coming from a high school where help was readily available, this was a nice fit. You can mostly find this type of environment with private colleges. They are a bit more pricey, but the quality of education and ability to seek 1:1 time with your professors is most definitely worth it. With smaller campuses and class sizes, you're more likely to get the courses you need to graduate on time (or even early!), which is a huge advantage that you won't get with state schools.

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Howard’s Answer

I think a safe bet would be the find a college such as a community college. Most of these range in size from 800 to around 4,000. Even if you went with one of the smallest colleges in your area, you are bound to have a different mix of students in each of your classes. You will find students from all age groups, walks of life, and career interests. This should allow you to meet , engage, and interact with a wide range of people in most of your classes.

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Amanda’s Answer

Hi Mia,

Great question! The high school I went to had about 125 students in the graduating class. But when I went to college, I ended up going to the college with the largest student body in the United States.

Some general education classes add a lot of students and was auditorium style, but for the most part I would say a majority of my classes had about 35-50 students (especially as I was in my third and fourth year and the classes were more specialized to my degree. Graduate school classes were even smaller).

The overall size of the college can seem scary and overwhelming, but you can still meet people and make genuine connections. By having a larger student body you're able to meet more people and make more connections. A pro of having a large student body is that, there are typically more clubs/groups on campus with higher participation than other colleges. Our school had a running, LGBTQ+ , coding, vegan, student council, environmental, accounting club.. anything you can think of there was a club (and if there wasn't, you could make one).

If you do end up going to a bigger college, I would suggest joining a few clubs you're interested in. This is the most efficient and effective way to create authentic relationships since there is a common interest to create that bond.

Looking at it from an academic perspective, even with the classes being larger I felt like I still received proper materials, tools, and resources from the professors. Professors hold office hours, so you can stop in their office as much as you'd like and build that personal and professional relationship with them. Even meeting people in class was easy, just by saying a simple hello many study groups were formed.

I would suggest looking for a college that fits the culture and type of environment you feel most comfortable in.

I hope this helps. Goodluck on your journey!




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