In the United States there are hundreds of college institutions, each offering a unique experience. One of the biggest factors influencing a student’s experiences and potential for success is the size of the school they choose to attend. Universities and colleges vary greatly in student population: the largest universities have more than 43,000 students while the smallest colleges have less than 300 students. However, no one school is a perfect match for everyone and institutions both large and small have their advantages and disadvantages.
All colleges offer different experiences, depending on many factors other than size, like the breadth of academic programs offered and the student life. For example, ranked 143rd of 262 national universities by US News and World Report, Arizona State University offers undergraduate students over 250 majors and has more than 100 graduate programs for those pursuing advanced degrees. As a result, the school’s student population has a very diverse set of interests that are very different from students at a school like Alaska Bible College, where students often spend their spare time ice-fishing and dog sledding-an activity hard to find at most other schools.
Size, however, probably has the largest impact on a student’s college experience. 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. In comparison, the campus at Alaska Bible College, the smallest college in the U.S. with 38 students, covers only 90 acres and has a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Many students prefer smaller institutions, as they offer more direct opportunities work individually with faculty However, many who prefer large institutions consider wide, diverse faculties an advantage of their education.
Big colleges offer benefits such as greater name recognition, the chance for a larger social circle, and a larger selection of programs. Because of name recognition, larger schools are sometimes able to attract more distinguished faculty members. A larger volume of students also helps keep tuition rates low. However, these schools must offer larger classes. Lower-level courses are usually taught by graduate assistants to keep up with class demand, and students have more competition when it comes to accessing faculty. Also, the high student population creates more competition for leadership opportunities in campus clubs, class governing bodies, and other student organizations. This can sometimes result in students feeling like small fish in a big ocean.
Small colleges are able to offer benefits that larger institutions cannot. For example, classes sizes are usually much smaller, allowing students to develop very personal relationships with faculty. This can also allow for a more hands-on learning experience inside the classroom and a strong sense of community on the campus overall. However, smaller institutions cannot offer as many majors as larger ones. They also offer fewer and smaller physical resources, such as libraries, science labs, and athletic facilities. Lastly, because of the low volume of students, there may be fewer opportunities for people to socialize with like-minded peers.
If you are interested in working for a university or college, you should consider pursuing a doctoral program in a field that interests you. Receiving a PhD will give you the opportunity to perform research and teach at the university level. You can also study educational leadership. These programs prepare students already working in the teaching industry to become leaders in schools by emphasizing the best practices and theories employed by successful educators. If you want a career working in college admissions, you should consider studying a social science such as sociology. These majors explore human behavior within society and will help you identify students that are most likely to succeed at the institution for which you work.