Considering College Size: Which Is Right for You?

Campus size impacts not only the classroom but also the general social atmosphere of a college. Here's how to decide if you'd prefer a large or small school.

It’s a story told over and over again: “I thought it was my dream college, but it just wasn’t the right size!” Anecdotes like this only need to be heard once to cause an astonishing amount of uneasiness in the college search process. Campus size impacts not only classroom size but also the general social atmosphere of a college. Some people are naturally better fit for larger schools, while some are better fit for smaller ones. Ideal student populations are completely subjective—it all depends on what a student is or is not looking for in their college experience. 

Picking what campus size is the best for you can be difficult, but laying out certain aspects of college life and learning how they differ between campus sizes will make the process much easier. Here’s what you should consider in your college search.

Class size

For many students, this can be the biggest deciding factor. Depending on what type of learner you consider yourself to be, class size will be very influential on your learning experience. For those of us who consider ourselves to be kinesthetic learners (learning by touch and doing), smaller classes are likely the best option. Having the ability to directly participate in discussions will benefit you as a learner the most. For visual and auditory learners, larger classes can be sufficient to supply you the learning experience you desire. If you’re unsure what type of learner you are, there are a lot of tests on the internet that can help you find out!

Related: 7 Perks of Attending a Small College or University 

Student-faculty ratio

In addition, it’s important to consider the relationships you’ll make in the classroom. If teacher-student relationships are important to you, then small classes will give you a better chance of getting to know your professors. If you consider yourself a more individualized learner, a larger class will be perfect for you—and your professors will still have time for you to ask questions and get to know you if you put in the effort, so don’t worry too much about this aspect!

The campus community

The social and community experience of a school is one of the first things potential students notice about campuses. There is no “best” size college for this, but looking at the benefits and drawbacks held by different campus sizes in their community experience will help you choose what size is ideal for you.

College athletics

If you’re a sports fanatic and find yourself watching college athletics all the time, a big campus is the place to be! Larger colleges are more often going to have NCAA Division I teams, which are much more competitive and often have big, vibrant audiences. Other than varsity sports, larger colleges often offer more club opportunities and student teams. These can be fantastic ways to branch out, meet new people, and maximize your college experience. But it’s important to note that small colleges can offer all of this too, just not with the same magnitude as larger colleges.


There’s one important point that small colleges meet unlike large colleges: smaller campuses allow students to become more familiar with one another, which are going to create a closer-knit community that you may not feel at a large college. Whether students like this closeness or not is an extremely common reason for transferring colleges. If you know that you thrive better within a close, bonded community, a smaller campus is going to fulfill this need for you. However, if you like meeting new people consistently while having your own place on campus, you might prefer a larger college.

Related: Finding Community on Campus 

Generally, there are an unbelievable number of considerations you must make when choosing what college or university is best for you, including campus size. Using your social and learning lives as a guideline for making this very important decision can help ensure your happiness at the college where you ultimately decide to enroll. Good luck in your search!

Search for colleges based on your preferred campus size and student enrollment in our Lists & Rankings section!

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About Abigail Horwitz

Abigail Horwitz

Abigail Horwitz is a sophomore in high school. She is very passionate about learning, especially in the fields of history and mathematics, but she also loves to read and write. Outside of school, you can find her playing tennis or furthering her yoga practice.


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