Choosing the right size university can mean the difference between a wonderful experience…or an overwhelming one. Learn why a small school can be your best bet.
Sprawling campuses. Thousands of students. Packed lecture halls. It’s all part of the large-university experience, and some students thrive on it.
But let’s be honest: big schools aren’t for everyone. Many students prefer a quieter, more personalized college experience, and for those students a small university—sometimes called “liberal arts” or “teaching” universities—are exactly the right fit.
If you’re still torn between the two, here are four reasons why a small university could be the right choice for you.
- Small class sizes—Some days we just want to blend in to the crowd, and lecture halls are great for that. But if you’d rather have the opportunity to ask questions, get involved in interesting discussions and be taught by a professor who actually knows your name, small colleges are the way to go.
The majority of small-college classes tend to have fewer than 30 students, which allows for more individualized learning. Plus, it’s easier to collaborate with and get to know a couple dozen classmates than a couple hundred.
- Lower student-to-faculty ratio—According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average national student-to-faculty ratio is 18:1—in other words, one faculty member for every 18 students. Take a look at how three large and two small Michigan universities fare in comparison:
- Large universities:
- Oakland University, 20:1
- Michigan State University, 16:1
- University of Michigan, 15:1
- Small universities:
- Cleary University, 13:1
- Rochester University student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
The lower the ratio, the more time your professors have to evaluate your work and offer detailed critiques. You’ll also have more opportunities to get to know your professors on a personal basis and develop relationships that make it easier to ask for help—or even letters of recommendation, when the time comes for grad school or job-searching.
- The programs are transfer-friendly—Smaller universities are often more flexible with transfer students than big schools. Almost done with your degree? Only have a semester left to finish? You’ll want as many credits as possible to transfer! Keep in mind, though, that every school is different, so check with your advisor for details.
- You’re an important part of a strong community—If you think of larger schools as the big cities of higher education, small universities are the small towns where you know almost everyone. Everyone’s ready to help, it’s easy to find your way around and you won’t feel as overwhelmed, since you don’t get lost in the crowd.
And for online or working students, it’s easier to access campus resources like supplemental instruction, tutoring and library services at small universities.
Still Not Sure? Here’s More Help
If we spelled out all the good reasons to look at a small college, like…
- Excellent financial aid options
- More personal advising
- More opportunities to stand out and make a difference
- A well-rounded education that prepares you for many different types of careers
…we’d end up with a book the size of which JK Rowling would envy. Which is why we’ll just add some links at the end of the article to help get the decision center of your brain warmed up—and encourage you to take advantage of all the great information and advising resources your potential schools will have available.
Also, keep in mind that your situation is uniquely yours; what worked for friends, co-workers or family members might not work for you. Your own personal future is out there waiting, and whether you choose a large university or a small one, make sure it’s the right one for you. Good luck!