Large Universities vs Small Colleges: Advantages and Disadvantages of Each

Searching for the right university may begin as early as sophomore year of high school. While many teenagers have their dream major and institution, others are overwhelmed by the process. Students might not know if they want to reside out-of-state or commute, attend a private or public school, or play a sport. To begin, one must understand the differences between large universities and small colleges. There are advantages and disadvantages of each, and awareness helps future undergrads make a decision.

What Defines A Large University?

A large university has more students, faculty, and acreage. While there is a wider variety of activities, some students might feel overwhelmed, homesick, or inferior. A feature piece called “Pros and Cons of Small Colleges and Big Universities” was published on It reads:

Big universities tend to have 15,000 students or greater . . . offer a greater number of degree plans and major and minor fields of study, and are often research institutions. . . . 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.


Advantages of Large Universities

  • Endless possibilities of majors, minors, campus jobs, sports, extracurricular activities, and study abroad programs
  • Being further away from home provides of sense of independence
  • Easier to hide from bullies or distasteful people
  • A vastly bigger pool of potential friends
  • Thousands of out-of-state commuters prevent isolation, homesickness, or rejection
  • There are activities, events, and parties occurring at all times
  • Recreational facilities, including gyms, sports fields, swimming pools, dining options, theatres, workshops, and other leisure activities
  • Better-funded
  • Attend a well-known or precious university
  • More housing options offer a greater chance of meeting your needs
  • Notorious sports teams produce ample opportunities for those who want to play in a professional league
  • Graduate programs for Master’s and Doctoral degrees
  • Tend to be cheaper for in-state students
  • Lecture halls with hundreds of students benefit those who dislike the spotlight
  • Walking is great for exercise


Disadvantages of Large Universities

  • Waiting for a bus or shuttle to take you around campus may make you late for class
  • Walking for miles in harsh weather is not ideal
  • Students get lost or feel overwhelmed by an immense campus
  • It could take more effort to meet friends and forge relationships
  • Being further away from home nurtures homesickness and new responsibilities
  • Tend to be more expensive for out-of-state students
  • Increased rates of crime, bullying, and violence, as minor conflicts or threats could be overlooked
  • More competition: harder to stand out, impress people, or be at the top of your class
  • Lecture halls with hundreds of students remove personal attention
  • Academic or financial conflicts may be more time-consuming
  • College advisors are too busy with other students to offer individual advice and recommendations
  • Will need more time to return to normal campus life after the Coronavirus


What Defines A Smaller College?

A small college has fewer students, faculty, and acreage. While there are fewer activities, there are better opportunities to meet people and belong to a community. According to

Small colleges have approximately 5,000 students or fewer. . . . they tend to focus on undergraduate education . . . 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.


Advantages of Smaller Colleges

  • Easier to make friends and contact people
  • When “everyone knows everyone,” college becomes a home away from home
  • You will see a familiar face everywhere you go, forming a community and making lifelong friends
  • Students rarely have to fight to get into their classes, and switching to another course is easier
  • Less competition in clubs, sports, extracurriculars, or school plays
  • Accessibility to any location by foot
  • The teacher-student ratio is closer, meeting the specific needs of individuals
  • Smaller class sizes benefit those who need letters of recommendation
  • Experienced professors teach courses instead of graduate students or teaching assistants
  • College advisors have fewer students and more time to offer advice, insight, and recommendations
  • Better opportunity to stand out among the student body or in your major
  • Greater academic flexibility for double-majors, independent studies, and self-designed majors
  • Financial aid offices are less busy, friendlier, more personal, and willing to compromise
  • Grants, fellowships, and study awards are more obtainable
  • School spirit spreads in unconventional ways, such as word of mouth, apparel, and laid-back traditions
  • Will need less time to return to normal campus life after the Coronavirus


Disadvantages of Smaller Colleges

  • Harder to find study space
  • Fewer choices of major, minor, study abroad programs, and clubs
  • Sports events are quieter, and not every sport is offered
  • Some sports may be played and practiced off-campus
  • Dining options are reduced, which is difficult for picky eaters or those with dietary restrictions
  • Fewer classes are offered, restricting choices of professors and availability
  • Limitations towards campus resources, lab facilities, libraries, and research capabilities
  • Fewer people: if you’ve met everyone and still haven’t found anyone you click with, you might feel more alone instead than less
  • Many smaller colleges don’t offer fraternities for sororities
  • Less independence for those who feel “trapped” on campus
  • Not all smaller colleges offer dorming, and for those that do, there are fewer students on campus 24/7
  • Less variety in housing choices creates competition and forces some to live off-campus
  • The lack of opportunities restricts the college experience


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