Ever wondered about the differences between attending a small vs large college or university?

While both small and large schools have benefits and drawbacks, you should be aware of how different class sizes will affect your ability to learn and become educated.

Thankfully, I transferred from a small college to a large university so I have insights that you may not be able to find elsewhere.

small vs large


Education & Classes

While you may be somewhat uninterested in this topic, it really SHOULD be the most important factor in deciding which school is right for you.

If your school doesn’t offer the major you want to study or have the classes you need to achieve your goals, you should revaluate whether or not that school is the right choice.

Of course, there is a lot more to education than just your major and the classes that go along with it.

You have to see the pros and cons of education from many other the standpoints, such as the size of your school and how that will affect you receiving the education you want.

What You Can Expect From a Small School:

Pro: smaller classes; your class size will obviously vary, but most smaller schools will typically have anywhere from 20-40 people in your classes. Of course, there is the possibility of being in a class of less than 20 or more than 40, but on average, your classes will be very manageable.

Con: attendance is definitely kept in these small classes so skipping more than a couple of time is NOT an option.

Pro: your professor will probably know your name, your opinions/ideas, and will genuinely be interested in getting to know you (most of the time).

Con: don’t come to class unprepared because your teacher may still call on you to lead a class discussion, answer questions from the homework, or contribute in some way or another.

Pro: you will know a lot of people in class and they will know you. Time to make a lot of friends and form study groups.

Con: smaller classes with people who are able to voice their opinions regularly may mean more class debate/discussion. If you don’t enjoy listening to the ideas of your peers, you may not enjoy the smaller, more intimate class setting.

Pro: you will have many assignments that will make up a large portion of your final grade; if you mess up on a few, there are still many opportunities to bring up your grade.

Con: because there are fewer students in your class, this means your teacher has more time to dish out and grade a lot of assignments. If you are not good at handing things in on time  or with weekly assignments, this could be a problem.

Pro: since your teacher knows you, you have a better chance of being able to talk your way into a good grade or get extra credit projects.

Con: because your professor knows you and your work ethic, he/she may catch on to the fact that you have a problem handing things in on time and may think twice about giving you an extension or extra help.

Pro: smaller classes means more individualized attention, time after class, office hours, and time for questions.

Con: you really have no excuse for getting bad grades.

What You Can Expect From a Large School:

Pro: big classes means a lot of resources; you will meet a ton of other students and get to know one or several TA’s.

Con: unless you make the effort to do so, you won’t get a chance to talk to other students (read: no group projects in a 400-person class) and if you don’t go to class, forget about getting to know your TA or professor.

Pro: more students/class means fewer assignments on a regular basis. Your teacher does not have enough time to grade hundreds of assignments all the time.

Con: if you aren’t forced to do work on a regular basis, you may not be learning the material sufficiently.

Pro: if you need to skip class (whether you do it frequently or not) you can usually do this without anyone ever knowing you are gone. Why? Because in a sea of 300-400 students, the teacher probably doesn’t know who you are anyway.

Con: repeat the last sentence; the teacher probably doesn’t know who you are anyway. It’s easy to skip a class when no one is making you go.

Pro: a large class means discussion groups which are smaller versions of your class that meet once a week and are instructed by a TA. This will help you to learn the material and get to know other students in your class.

Con: if you don’t go to these (sometimes annoying/boring) discussion classes, your grade will suffer considerably, sometimes an entire letter grade.

Pro: Having a TA means you have someone like a tutor on hand; you can schedule time to meet with him/her and get extra help on assignments, exams, and papers.

Con: the TA is NOT the professor, is NOT as knowledgable, and can even give you incorrect information. While the TA is usually helpful, there are some who do not care about students and will not schedule time to help you.

Pro: because your class is so large, your professor will typically have a set number of office hours where you can reach him/her for extra help or just to talk. Professors are usually flexible about their office hours, too and will often schedule extra time to accommodate students.

Con: because there are so many students, everyone is competing for the professors time and you may find yourself waiting your turn during office hours or sharing them with multiple people.

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