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Big vs. Small, Urban vs. Rural: Consider College Campuses

Bridget Kulla

June 04, 2008

Big vs. Small, Urban vs. Rural: Consider College Campuses

While not as attention-getting as academic quality or price tag, the size and location of a college have a big impact on your college experience. Take time to evaluate the pros and cons.

Large Schools vs. Small Schools

One size doesn’t fit all. Don’t expect college life at a school of 50,000 to be the same as life at a campus of less than 1,000.

Large Schools

  • Large selection of classes and majors
  • A wide variety of resources, well-stocked library.
  • Many academic and social options
  • Distinguished faculty


  • Risk of becoming lost in the crowd
  • Large class sizes, less individual attention
  • More classes taught by teaching assistants and not professors
  • Less student-teacher interaction
  • More red tape and sometimes unable to get in classes you need

Not all large schools are as big as they appear. Many large universities have structures in place to avoid the “lost” feeling some students might encounter. The Hutton Honors College at Indiana University, for example, limits its enrollment and works to create a small college atmosphere in the midst of Indiana University’s more than 36,000 students. Other groups, like fraternities and sororities, dorm communities and academic departments can also make a large student body seem smaller.

“The thing I love most about Arizona State University is the diversity; with well over 50,000 on one campus there are plenty of opinions to go around,” says Rene Herrera.

Small Schools

  • Small class sizes
  • More individual attention and guidance
  • Strong sense of community
  • Hands-on learning experiences
  • Opportunities to work more closely with professors


  • Less majors to choose from
  • Fewer physical resources
  • Smaller libraries
  • More limited social opportunities

Small schools tend to offer lower student-to-teacher ratios than larger schools, but are often more limited in their academic and social offerings. Since there is usually less red tape at smaller schools, students may have more opportunities to design their own majors. This flexibility can be difficult to achieve at large universities.

Some students thrive in the community that small schools foster, while others find it limiting. “Choosing this small college was one of the best decisions I have made. I like the small campus -- you get to know the professors really well,” says Enga Almeida, one of the 1,047 students at Columbia Union College.

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