Big or Small: What Size University Is Right for You?

Big or Small: What Size University Is Right for You?

There are many factors to consider during the application process. When you decide to study in the United States, you’ll need to research potential universities thoroughly to ensure you’re making the best choice. Every university will provide a warm welcome but your experience at a large university will be very different from your experience at a small one. Ask yourself these questions to help narrow your school search. 

How do I like to learn?

Large and small universities approach the learning process differently due to the number of students they educate each year. Some large universities in the United States have as many as 50,000 students enrolled at one time, while very small universities may have less than 2,000 students. This can present different opportunities to learn and can help you decide what learning environment best suits you.

Small universities usually have smaller class sizes, which means it’s easier for students to connect with professors if they need extra help. Large universities typically have larger class sizes for subjects that are required of all students, like first-year English classes, but as students progress into their major, the classes get smaller and more focused. All professors offer “office hours” where students can speak with them or ask any questions they may have about the material, but at larger universities with more students, you may have to wait a while to meet with a professor. Larger universities also employ graduate students as teaching assistants to make sure that every student gets the help they need, but these teaching assistants sometimes lack the industry experience of a full professor. However, many students feel that if they take good notes in class, do all the reading and pay attention during lectures, they can handle the material without additional help. Knowing how involved you want your professors to be during your classes can help decide what environment will set you up for success.

Do I know what I want to study?

If you know exactly what you want to study, searching for universities that have well-regarded programs in your area of interest is a good place to start. If you don’t know what you want to study, it can feel like any university could be a good fit. Larger universities typically have more resources, more faculty, and offer a wide variety of majors, allowing students who are unsure in their first year to find the perfect major. Smaller universities often offer a liberal arts education, meaning they require all first-year students to take different classes and expose themselves to topics they may not have considered taking on their own. This can help students find their passions and choose a major from there. Keep in mind that large universities usually have better research facilities and give students more access to research opportunities. Smaller universities with specialized programs can give you the same experience, but the opportunities can be harder to find and more difficult to get into the program.

How involved do I want to be?

While both large and small universities will do everything they can to make sure international students feel comfortable on their campus, they ask different things of their students. Small campuses often require students to attend more activities that help the incoming class bond. This creates a strong sense of community by hosting events and encouraging campus involvement. This isn’t as common at large universities, which is great for students who are independent and want to take their time finding out which clubs, sports, organizations or groups they want to join. Some universities are now offering ‘peer-to-peer’ mentoring programs to help international student adapt to their new surroundings.

Where do I want to live?

Small and large universities also differ in how they assign housing. Many small institutions require students to live on campus for at least one year, with some even requiring on-campus living for all four years of university. This can affect your budget, living options and transportation needs. If you decide to attend a college that allows off-campus living, can help you find housing that fits all your needs and allows you to be as close to campus as you want.

If your apartment is unfurnished, furniture rental is an economical and convenient way to furnish your home. CORT, the leading provider of furniture rental in the U.S., furnishes thousands of student apartments with everything from beds and sofas to housewares and electronics – all with affordable rental package options.

Large and small universities offer different opportunities and challenges. Answer these questions before you make your short list to help you figure out which university will be the best fit for you.

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Margaret Schwartz is an experienced international traveler and Director of Marketing at CORT Furniture Rental, where she works directly with students and higher education institutions.

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