Prospective students must decide on what size college to attend. A small college generally has fewer than 1,000 students, while a larger university has more than 35,000 students. What’s best for a particular individual depends significantly on personality and academic goals.
Small Class Sizes
One of the most important benefits of attending a small college is small class sizes. Different from larger universities where lecture halls seat hundreds of students, students will rarely be in class sizes of over 50 at a small college.
Research has shown that students learn faster and perform better in smaller classes. A class size of fewer than 20 students often obtains higher test scores, participates more in school, demonstrates improved behavior, increases participation, and communicates more.
Instructors can also adapt coursework to fit in the class. Unlike large classes, instructors can get to know a small group of students faster and tailor their approach according to different learning styles. Assignments are also more hands-on. Students can do the work rather than just learn about it.
Finally, smaller classes encourage participation. Students can share their ideas and ask questions about topics they don’t understand. Instructors can also provide more feedback to their students, creating a more effective learning experience.
Less Competition for Financial Aid
Most colleges offer financial aid from the federal government, but schools also provide scholarships, work-study programs, and even assistant programs for graduate students. A major benefit of attending a smaller school is more financial aid. And fewer students attending college means less competition for financial assistance.
Students may even find that a smaller college has scholarships that no one applies for simply because there are too many. Check with the financial aid department of the college before you enroll.
Larger public schools have also been cutting their merit-based aid due to state and federal budget cuts. These cuts force public schools to choose between needs-based students with a low income and students who have performed well and deserve a monetary award.
Luckily, smaller colleges that do not rely as much on public funding still offer both needs- and merit-based financial aid. Some of this aid is in the form of loans, while some is in the form of scholarships.
Stronger Sense of Community
On a smaller campus, there is often a stronger sense of community. Students are more likely to get to know one another, making it easier to make friends in multiple departments and programs.
Creating this sense of community is comforting, especially for first-year students. Students are less likely to feel alone or homesick seeing a familiar face anywhere.
Colleges also offer many extra-curricular activities, generally open to anyone wanting to participate. At a small college, there tends to be less competition for the available offerings, so it is easier for students to explore new activities and experiment with different possibilities.