College Is My Hobby: “Size Matters”
Another factor that one must consider when choosing colleges is the student population. Some schools are huge, with student populations higher than the population of Hilo. Other schools are on the small side, with only a few thousand students. However, it is difficult to define precisely what “big” and “small” are when referring to colleges. In most cases, any school with more than 15,000 students is considered to be fairly large. It’s hard to say that one type is better than the other. It really just depends on one’s personal preference.
Some of the largest colleges in the nation include Arizona State University (58,000 students), Ohio State University (56,000 students), and New York University (43,000 students). Many large colleges are public flagship campuses, although some private universities can also reach a fairly considerable size. Large colleges often have more extensive facilities such as larger libraries and sports complexes, more successful and high-profile Division I sports programs, and more school spirit than small schools, though there are exceptions. Large schools are also able to offer more academic programs and classes and can attract famous and distinguished professors to teach there. One of the characteristics of large colleges is a sense of anonymity, since everyone is just one of thousands of students. Some people may enjoy this environment, but others may be dismayed at the lack of personal attention.
Although large schools are exciting, they do have some drawbacks. Introductory classes are often huge, with hundreds of people crammed into a lecture hall. In addition, many professors at large colleges are focused more on research than they are on teaching, and usually rely on teaching assistants (graduate students at the college) to teach many classes. Some graduate TAs are excellent, but others may have poor English skills or simply poor teaching skills. However, for those who want big-school excitement but also close interaction with faculty, many large schools offer an Honors College within the university to provide a small-school atmosphere for select students.
Small schools, such as Williams College (2,000 students), Dartmouth College (6,000 students), and Pepperdine University (8,000 students), appeal to people seeking personal attention from professors. Because they have fewer students, small colleges are usually more close-knit and often have a stronger sense of community. Another selling point for small colleges is the personal attention. Classes at small colleges usually have less than 20 students, and full professors teach almost all classes. Some professors will even take the time to get to know each of their students by name!
However, the facilities at small schools are usually not as extensive as those available at large colleges. They also do not offer as many academic programs, though some have options for self-designed majors where the student gets to choose his/her own course of study. Some small schools also have cross-registration with other schools, where students may take courses at other colleges for credit. This can sometimes make up for the more limited course selections available. Although many small colleges have intercollegiate sports programs, they usually play in Division II or III or are not as well known. Even so, small colleges can still offer many outlets for social life.
DISCLAIMER: The information offered in this article is accurate to the best of the columnist’s knowledge and is not intended to replace the advice of the school counselors. When in doubt, the counselor is probably right.