Debating College Size: What Makes the Best Fit?

Every year high school students weigh the pros and cons of attending a large state university versus a small, intimate college experience. Our experts are happy to help build out those lists and share insights about what they've seen be the biggest benefits and challenges of each. Did you attend a big school and love it? Hate it? We want to hear your experience in the comments section!

This week's question asks:
"Knowing that a college's size can have a big impact on someone's experience, what makes a school large or small, and what are some of the more subtle advantages/disadvantages of both?"

Marjorie Shaevitz
"Top 10 advantages of smaller colleges over larger ones"
Using David Letterman's "Top Ten List" concept, here are the "Top 10 advantages of smaller colleges over larger ones:" #10) smaller classes, #9) closer relationships with professors, #8) more personal attention, #7) greater mentoring, #6) a finer sense of family and community, #5) a collaborative rather than competitive atmosphere, #4) larger emphasis on student research projects, internships and job connections, #3) better advising, #2) more seminar and discussion classes, and #1) a much higher record for getting into graduate school. By comparison, larger colleges offer more students, majors, courses, access to graduate programs, activities, sports and bureaucracy, rules and regulations (aka, red tape).

- Marjorie Shaevitz - Author & Founder, adMISSION POSSIBLE

John Carpenter
"S M L XL XXL -- Shrink to fit?"
I think many people consider SIZE as a reliable factor when, in fact, it doesn't really mean that much in choosing a college.  The real factor should be how you learn best, and many people learn better from individualized attention.  It's easier to get that at a smaller college, but even at huge universities, you can find smaller learning communities that give you exactly what you need.  My advice is not to get hung up on size.  After four years, it won't matter anyway.  Look at how you learn best instead, and find a community that matches that.

- John Carpenter - Founder,

Rebecca Joseph
"These ones are just right: designing your college list"
Goldilocks found the perfect porridge, chair, and bed. And you can find the perfect colleges to put on your list. A good place to start is Steven Antonoff's book, College Finder. It lists colleges under every conceivable category. Look at the categories and then go explore the colleges. You can start in your own area to see whether you like city, suburban, or rural locations. Think about size and cost. Think about closeness to home and weather. Think about the match to your academic and extracurricular strengths. You can develop a great list and go from there.

- Rebecca Joseph - Executive Director & Founder, Get Me To College