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 a Diverse College Community in 3 Easy Steps

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!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


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.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Ruth Aguilar

Ruth Aguilar

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me by providing me with many scholarship opportunities and information about universities I want to attend. What I love about CollgeXpress is how it provides a variety of information, and as the first child attending a university next year, it has been very essential and helpful. I’m so grateful for this because the information provided by CollegeXpress has also helped me see that there are so many college opportunities, and it always informs me by email. In other words, CollegeXpress has been like a guide for me as a future college student.

Amari Toussaint

Amari Toussaint

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me narrow my school choices down from 10 schools to four and then two. It also gave me information on a school I had never heard about or thought about attending until now, which is the school I will be attending in the fall. I am thankful for CollegeXpress and its helpful tools.

Lexie Knutson

Lexie Knutson

High School Class of 2021

This whole website has helped me overcome the attitude I had before. I was scared to even approach the thought of college because it was so much. I knew it wasn’t just a few easy steps, and I panicked mostly, instead of actually trying. Without realizing it, CollegeXpress did exactly what I usually do when I panic, which is take it one step at a time. With college I forget that because it’s more than just a small to-do list, but this website was really helpful and overall amazing. So thank you!



High School Class of 2019

My favorite feature of CollegeXpress is the scholarship search. As someone going out of state for college, I needed all the financial help I could get, and CollegeXpress helped me easily find scholarships I could apply for to help fund my education.

Sierra Carranza

Sierra Carranza

High School Class of 2022

I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to go to school; I was considering colleges in almost every state. CollegeXpress was an amazing resource and helped me compare all of my top schools. Without the help of CollegeXpress, I probably wouldn't have made such an informed and confident decision.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Evangel University

Springfield, MO

Ashland University

Ashland, OH

University of Portland

Portland, OR