Pros and Cons of Medium Sized Colleges

Last Updated on May 26, 2024 by Team College Learners

Choosing the right college size is an important factor in finding the best fit, and medium-sized colleges can offer a unique blend of features from both small and large institutions. Here’s a list of some pros and cons of attending a medium-sized college.

When it comes to admission requirements for medium-sized colleges, each institution may have its own specific criteria for acceptance. However, some common requirements for undergraduate admission include submitting high school transcripts, standardized test scores (such as the SAT or ACT), letters of recommendation, a personal statement or essay, and possibly an interview. Some colleges may also require applicants to meet certain GPA minimums or demonstrate proficiency in specific subjects.

Pros of Attending a Medium-Sized College:


  1. Balanced student-to-faculty ratio

  2. Diverse program offerings

  3. Campus resources

  4. Community and social life



Cons of Attending a Medium-Sized College:


  1. Less specialized programs

  2. Larger class sizes

  3. Less intimate community

  4. Limited opportunities

pros and cons of medium colleges

Medium sized colleges have a good balance between being too big and too small. We found that students like being able to know most people on campus, but also be able to blend in with the crowd. Medium sized schools allow students to be in large enough classes so they can learn from one another, but still get individual attention from professors when they need it. Many students who were interviewed stated they liked the number of sports teams available to them at their medium sized school, but not having to compete against thousands of other students for a spot on the team.

Cons of Medium Sized Colleges

While some students prefer a medium sized college, other students feel that it is too big or too small for their liking. Some students say that medium sized colleges don’t have enough famous professors or scholars as other large universities do, which can hurt them in getting jobs after graduation. Students also complained about not having enough fraternities or sor

Pros And Cons Of Medium Sized Colleges

College is a big decision. It affects how you spend the next four years of your life, which sets you up for the next forty.

When searching for best-fit colleges, size is often one of the first things that students consider. Many college bound students already have an idea of what they’re looking for in a school before they start researching specific institutions – maybe it’s a large student body with endless possibilities or a small campus with an intimate atmosphere. Going with your gut is a good place to start, but there are many pros, and cons, to certain college sizes that students might overlook when building their balanced college list.

Large university – Large universities typically offer more majors and activities than smaller schools. They also have more resources to provide students with opportunities in research, internships, and study abroad programs. Sometimes large schools have more distractions outside of academics than smaller schools and the student-to-faculty ratio can be lower than at small private schools.

Small liberal arts college – Smaller colleges tend to offer close relationships between faculty and students as well as a tight-knit community among peers. This can be great for students who want to build long lasting friendships as well as develop strong relationships with professors. However, there are typically fewer

While campus size isn’t the most important factor to consider when building your balanced college list, it is one of many details that can influence your decision about whether or not to apply to certain colleges. When building your balanced college list, be sure to look up the student body size and consider how that fits into your needs, goals, and what you want out of your college experience.

This chart below, comparing small, medium, and large college campuses sizes can help you get a better idea of what you’re looking for in the size of your best-fit colleges.

 Small CollegeMedium CollegeLarge College
Student Body Size<5,000 Undergrads5-15,000 Undergrads>15,000 Undergrads
Academic OfferingsSmaller colleges might have limited academic offerings, with more focus on liberal arts or a specialty, like STEMMore academic options than at a smaller college, but not as many as at a large university. Can sometimes have a strong liberal arts focusWide range of academic majors and research opportunities
Class SizeThere might be some large classes, but on the whole class sizes tend to be smallerA mix of large and small classes, with smaller classes as students get into higher-level, major-specific coursesMore large, auditorium-style classes in general education classes, with small classes in higher-level, major-specific courses
ActivitiesWith fewer students there might be fewer clubs and activities, but a smaller student body can give students more influence to start their own clubs or activities.Medium-size colleges tend to have a wide range of clubs and activities that meet students’ interests. There’s room to grow, but also plenty of established options to choose from.Large colleges tend to have hundreds of clubs and activities to meet any student’s interests. Plenty to choose from but too many options can be overwhelming for some.
Social ClimateStudents on smaller campuses can usually get to know each other better and a smaller student body can help you stand out. Students can feel like a big fish in a small pond. Good option for students who want a more intimate college experience with a smaller group of students.A medium-size student body can be small enough to create an intimate experience, but also big enough to keep meeting new people. This is a good option for students who want the experience of a smaller campus but more opportunities to branch out like in a larger university.Large student bodies are sometimes not as intimate. Students can feel like a little fish in a big pond. But on a large campus you’re always meeting someone new. Good option for students who want an experience that’s different every day. Students on large campuses who want an more intimate experience tend to find it within their major, or a club, group, or activity they’re passionate about.

Why choose colleges with 5000 to 10000 students?

The best of both worlds.

Medium-sized colleges and universities, in some respects, offer students the best of both worlds. With enrollments of between 5,000 and 15,000 students, medium-sized colleges and universities may have many of the pros and cons of both small colleges and large universities, though those pros and cons will be markedly less pronounced.

In general, medium-sized colleges and universities offer a truly top-notch education (this is true of large universities as well). Often these schools are able to attract highly accomplished faculty because they’re not saddled with the same problems that plague large schools—lackluster reputations, poor teaching ratings—and aren’t so small that their resources are limited.

But larger schools have to find a way to provide for their massive student bodies, and often this translates into programs like intramural sports that are available at a much lower cost than similar programs offered at a smaller school.

There’s also research to suggest that students who attend medium-sized colleges and universities go on to earn higher salaries ten years after graduation than their counterparts at small or large schools.

When choosing best-fit colleges, the size of the campus can do a lot to directly impact everything from the school’s academic offerings to the campus’ social climate. A college with 2,000 undergraduates is not going to offer hundreds of majors, but you might get more advisory support once you get on campus. On the flip side, a larger university can offer almost endless academic opportunities, but you’ll need to be more independent as a higher volume of students can leave faculty and staff with little time to get to know every student extremely well.

Because admissions officers are working to build a well-rounded class of freshmen every application season, how students’ goals and ambitions fit onto that campus is taken very seriously. If a student is looking for a highly specific major and a campus experience with unlimited clubs, a smaller campus with more limited academic offerings and a freshman class size of about 600 isn’t going to meet that student’s goals. That’s why it’s important to consider social fit, along with academic and financial fit when selecting colleges to which to apply.

College Sizes: Small, Medium, or Large? | CollegeData

What college size is right for you?

First, picture yourself at your “dream” college. Is it a sprawling campus with thousands of students milling about every day? Or is it a more cozy atmosphere, with a quieter campus and familiar face everywhere? Or is it somewhere in between? How you picture the campus around you can tell you a lot about what you’re looking for in terms of size. The next step is to narrow down the geographic area where you’d like your dream school to sit. Do you want to stay close to home or are you open to moving far away? Are there certain areas of the country that appeal to you more than others? Does your school have to be by the beach or near mountains? Be sure to take these factors into account.

Next, think about what you want to study. Are you interested in a liberal arts education? Or do you have a more specific major in mind, like business, engineering, foreign language, etc.? Do you want to study a specific major, but also want the freedom to pursue other academic interests? Your academic goals can also play a part in size – larger universities tend to have more academic offerings, while smaller colleges might be limited in what majors and courses you can take.

This chart below, comparing small, medium, and large college campuses sizes can help you get a better idea of what you’re looking for in the size of your best-fit colleges.

Small College

Medium College

Large College

Student Body Size

<5,000 Undergrads

5-15,000 Undergrads

15,000 Undergrads

Academic Offerings

Smaller colleges might have limited academic offerings, with more focus on liberal arts or a specialty, like STEM

More academic options than at a smaller college, but not as many as at a large university. Can sometimes have a strong liberal arts focus

Wide range of academic majors and research opportunities

Class Size

There might be some large classes, but on the whole class sizes tend to be smaller

A mix of large and small classes, with smaller classes as students get into higher-level, major-specific courses

More large, auditorium-style classes in general education classes, with small classes in higher-level, major-specific courses

Activities

With fewer students there might be fewer clubs and activities, but a smaller student body can give students more influence to start their own clubs or activities.

Medium-size colleges tend to have a wide range of clubs and activities that meet students’ interests. There’s room to grow, but also plenty of established options to choose from.

Large colleges tend to have hundreds of clubs and activities to meet any student’s interests. Plenty to choose from but too many options can be overwhelming for some.

Social Climate

Students on smaller campuses can usually get to know each other better and a smaller student body can help you stand out. Students can feel like a big fish in a small pond. Good option for students who want a more intimate college experience with a smaller group of students.

A medium-size student body can be small enough to create an intimate experience, but also big enough to keep meeting new people. This is a good option for students who want the experience of a smaller campus but more opportunities to branch out like in a larger university.

Large student bodies are sometimes not as intimate. Students can feel like a little fish in a big pond. But on a large campus you’re always meeting someone new. Good option for students who want an experience that’s different every day. Students on large campuses who want an more intimate experience tend to find it within their major, or a club, group, or activity they’re passionate about.

Campus size matters.

It’s something you never really think about until it’s too late—when you’re packing up your dorm room and preparing to start your adult life. You’re looking around and thinking, “I never should have come here,” or “I wish I’d gone someplace bigger (or smaller)!”

How do we know? Because we’ve been there. We’ve been around a while, and we’ve seen a lot of people make the same mistake over and over again: not considering campus size when building their balanced college list. It’s just not something that people think about! But now that we’re here to tell you about it, you can avoid the same mistakes we made.

When it comes down to it, campus size isn’t everything in terms of choosing the right college for you. But it is one factor among many others that all work together to create your college experience. Just like picking a house or apartment, choosing a college is all about making sure to balance what you want out of the experience with what you need from it—and your ideal campus size is part of that balance.

We want to help you make sure that when you pack up your dorm room and say goodbye to your friends, you’re doing so

Want some more advice on building your college list? IvyWise counselor Meg offers some advice in this free webinar!

Hardest Colleges to Get into

Small Colleges vs. Big Universities: Pros and Cons

If you’re a high school junior, chances are you’re already thinking about college. You might be wondering what type of college or university you want to attend after you graduate high school. One important consideration to make during your college search is whether you’d like to attend a small college or a big university. There are distinct pros and cons to each type of higher education institution, and this article aims to offer some of those pros and cons to you to help you make a more informed decision about which colleges and universities to apply to.

One major consideration when choosing between small colleges and big universities is class size. Classes at small colleges often have fewer students than classes at big universities, meaning students at small colleges will get more personal attention from their professors and classmates than students at big universities might get. However, it also means that there are likely fewer opportunities for students at small colleges when it comes time for them to choose classes, especially if they want to take classes outside their major or try something new—though students do have the option of taking classes in other majors if they can fit them into their schedules. In contrast, large universities often have many more options for classes and also tend to have more resources available for their students, such as libraries and

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First, let’s clarify what we mean by “small” when referring to college size, as well as what we mean by “big.” Colleges and universities come in many different sizes, so speaking broadly, these are the numbers of students we’re talking about here.

what is considered a small college

Small colleges have approximately 5,000 students or fewer. A couple defining characteristics of small colleges: they tend to focus on undergraduate education (often they don’t offer graduate degrees) and courses are taught primarily by professors. Small class sizes and a close-knit college community are often hallmarks of small colleges, and small colleges tend to be private and thus more expensive to attend in many instances than large public universities.

What Is General Education (Gen Ed)? | BestColleges

what is considered a big college

Big universities tend to have 15,000 students or greater. Big universities tend to offer a greater number of degree plans and major and minor fields of study, and are often research institutions. Many courses at big universities, especially introductory courses, are taught by teaching assistants (graduate students in most cases) rather than professors. Big universities tend to have graduate programs, offering Master’s and Doctoral degrees as well as undergraduate degrees. Big universities tend to have greater student body diversity and vastly larger class sizes, as well as more clubs, organizations, and opportunities for social interaction.

Pros and Cons of Small Colleges

Attending a small college comes with several pros and cons, broadly speaking.

Here are some of the positive aspects of small colleges:

The smaller study body size means you can get to know a greater percentage of students, and the likelihood that you’ll run into people you know when going about your day-to-day routine is much higher.

Small colleges, owing to their small student body, tend to foster a greater sense of camaraderie among students; small colleges tend to have higher percentages of alumni donors, perhaps because there’s a greater sense of “home away from home” at small colleges.

At small colleges, the chances of being a “big fish in a small pond” are vastly increased. There are fewer people to compete with in the college itself and in your major field of study, so standing out from the crowd is much, much easier.

Similarly, at small colleges, class sizes tend to be small. The teacher-student ratio is much higher, meaning that the chances of forming closer academic and professional relationships are also much higher. Professors will get to know you better at a small college than they might at a big university. These more familiar relationships with professors might make it easier for you to have an advocate for graduate study, if you happen to need letters of recommendation.

At small colleges, most—if not all—classes are taught exclusively by professors, rather than teaching assistants. Although graduate students are often quite intelligent (they did, after all, get into graduate school) they tend to have less teaching experience than professors, as well as less academic and professional experience. If you prefer to take courses with professors who have already “been there and done that,” a small college might be the way to go.

At small colleges, you might actually have greater academic flexibility rather than less. Your ability to double major or double minor successfully might be greater, and the opportunity to conduct independent studies might be higher. In addition, you might be able to create a self-designed major if none of the major offerings make sense for you to study.

Small colleges may offer grants, fellowships, and study awards that are much, much easier to win. Research the web sites of prospective small colleges and take a look for yourself at the grants and fellowships students can apply for during their undergraduate education. You can use these grants and fellowships for travel, to conduct independent studies, to conduct research projects, or to obtain experiential learning.

At small colleges, your experience with your college advisor will likely be more favorable. Your college advisor will be responsible for fewer students, and as a result, you’ll be able to obtain more personalized insight and information during the advising process.

At small colleges, your experience working with the financial aid office might be friendlier, easier, and more personal. If you develop strong relationships with your financial aid officers, you might be able to more successfully obtain aid and loans, and you might be able to make smarter financial decisions during the college experience.

Easiest Colleges to Get into

Here are some of the negative aspects of small colleges:

Small colleges tend to be private and thus more expensive.

Small colleges can be isolating. Everyone might know your name at a small college. For some, that’s a pro rather than a con, but for others, a little anonymity might be refreshing for a chance. In rural parts of the United States, especially, colleges can feel like isolated bubbles. You might not be very close to the big city!

At a small college, it might be harder, rather than easier, to make friends and form meaningful relationships. Although the smaller class size might mean that everyone knows everyone on a deeper level than is possible at a large university, small colleges have fewer people, period, meaning that if you’ve met everyone at your college and still haven’t found anyone you click with, you might feel more alone in college, rather than less alone. It sounds paradoxical but it’s very true. Larger colleges have vastly larger pools of potential friends, though it might take more effort to actually MEET those friends and forge those relationships.

Small colleges will likely offer a lesser degree of variety in housing choices than larger universities might. At a large university, there will be many more housing options.

What about big universities, though?

Pros and Cons of Big Universities

Here are some of the positive aspects of attending a big university:

At a big university, there will be a great deal more opportunities for social interaction, a greater number of clubs and student organizations, and more options for extracurricular activities. If you’re hoping to spend a lot of your time at university on your social and extracurricular pursuits, a big university might offer the diversity you’re looking for.

Large universities tend to have a greater selection of fields of study, so if there’s a certain field of study you’re hoping to pursue that isn’t offered at a small college, chances are it’s offered at a large university.

At a big university, fewer people will know who you are, and as a result, you’ll be able to feel more anonymous if you so choose. Some people treat this aspect as a pro, while others treat it as a con.

Big colleges tend to have much greater funding, and as a result, more robust extracurricular offerings and sports programs. If you’re big into sports, a big university might be the way to go.

Big universities are often much cheaper than small private colleges (if you plan to study in-state). Out-of-state tuition are large public universities is often much more expensive than in-state tuition, so taking a year to establish residency in a state is a common tactic for many cash-strapped students who dream of going to out-of-state universities.

Big universities are also often research institutions, meaning they offer graduate degree programs in addition to undergraduate degree programs. If you’re aiming to go to graudate school, perhaps even at the SAME school you’re going to attend for your undergraduate education, you might be able to forge a meaningful relationship with a professor who holds sway in accepting or rejecting graduate students. Impressing a professor who’s responsible for admitting students into a graduate program could increase your chances of getting into that graduate program!

Easy Big Schools to Get into

Here are some negative aspects of big universities:

At a big university, there tends to be MUCH more competition. It will be much harder to stand out, impress people, and be at the top of your game at a big university. You will likely be a small fish in a big pond, so to speak.

At a big university, class sizes are much larger, meaning you’ll get much less individual attention from professors and even from their teaching assistants. You might have to take many courses with hundreds of fellow students in big lecture halls where no one even knows your name. This might be a pro for some students who don’t enjoy the spotlight, but for students seeking individual attention and closer relationships with their peers and professors, it might constitute a con.

There’s likely a greater amount of bureaucracy to navigate through at a big university. Things that might be simple at a small college, like switching majors, might be more confusing and time-consuming at a big university.

Your advisor will be responsible for many more students at a big university than at a small college, so the chance that you’ll receive a great deal of advice and recommendations from your college advisor is smaller at a big university.

A middle path: the medium-sized college

Medium-sized colleges and universities, in some respects, offer students the best of both worlds. With enrollments of between 5,000 and 15,000 students, medium-sized colleges and universities may have many of the pros and cons of both small colleges and large universities, though those pros and cons will be markedly less pronounced.

What’s right for you?

Only you can determine what type of college and university is right for you. It’s wise to take the factors that I’ve listed into account. What are your priorities? Friends? Extracurriculars? Diversity? Intimacy? Anonymity? Flexibility? Student to teacher ratios? Clubs? Sports? Will you be attending graduate school? Would you like to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond? What’s your budget for college look like? Do you want to live in an urban, suburban, or rural area? Will you be attending college in state or out of state?

We’re glad you’ve come to us for help with your college application process! You’ve got a lot of decisions to make, but we’re here to walk you through this step-by-step.

First, it’s time to do a little homework. First, figure out your target colleges. Ask yourself: what’s your academic goal? Do you want to study computer science and machine learning? Are you more interested in pursuing your literary and creative writing dreams? Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn another language—Russian, French, or Chinese? Consider the options, because each of those three choices is going to lead you down a different path. You’ll want to go schools that specialize in that topic area; even if the school isn’t known for its strength in those areas, it should at least have strong programs in them.

Second, ask yourself how far away from home you want to be. If you want to stay close—to commute or stay at home—you should look at colleges within an hour away from where you live. If you’re open to moving further away, don’t be afraid of traveling! Depending on your budget and financial situation, there are tons of great schools all over the country (and sometimes overseas) that may be perfect

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