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College Size, What's the Best Fit?


Colleges come in a variety of sizes from tiny (30, Deep Springs College) to enormous (72,000 spread across the Arizona State University Phoenix campuses).


When thinking about a college it is important to get a sense of your comfort level. Do you want to be surrounded by a lively sea of students crossing paths as they go from class to class, do you want to attend sporting events with thousands of cheering fans? Or do you prefer an environment with fewer students where the largest lecture hall fits only 50 seats?

There are around 2,500 colleges in the US which can be grouped into four size categories. These categories only look at undergraduate attendance.

Small and Cozy (under 2,000) This is largest category with over 500 colleges. At these colleges students have the opportunity to get to know their professors in a more close-knit setting. Students who want to actively participate in their education thrive in this environment. Despite their size, there are sports and clubs available to suit all interests, but there does not tend to be as much competition and they generally have a more collaborative atmosphere.

Examples run the gamut in their acceptance rates, including: Amherst, Pomona, and Cal Tech, on the very highly selective side to Beloit, California State University Maritime Academy, Whitman College and Kalamazoo which accept over 40% of students.


Classic Liberal Arts Size (2,000-5,000 students)

Around 300 colleges fit into this range. These schools maintain small class sizes and focus on undergraduate teaching. There are numerous opportunities to engage with faculty and students as well as a close-knit campus environment. Many of the best known colleges are in this category including Dartmouth, Carleton, Grinnell, Vassar, Oberlin, Middlebury, as well as lesser known but fantastic schools like Macalester, Lewis and Clark College, Clark College, University of Redlands, and Whitman College.

Mid-Size Colleges and Universities (5,000 to 10,000)

These colleges maintain a more personal feel, yet provide access to a larger group of students. Many of these schools are universities, meaning that they have graduate programs. There are 200 schools in this category and include both public and private institutions. Schools include: Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Duke, a number of Cal State Universities, UC Merced, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Loyola Marymount University.

Big Universities (over 10,000)

There are 58 universities in this group, mainly public, but includes some private schools. Private schools include Carnegie Mellon University, Tufts, New York University, University of Southern California, Columbia, and Cornell University. The rest are public state universities including UCLA, UC Berkeley, Arizona State, U. of Michigan, U of Wisconsin-Madison, U. of Colorado-Boulder, and University of Texas-Austin.

At the big universities there are a huge number of options and majors, however, students must learn to advocate for themselves and make their voices heard. Many have honors or smaller colleges which create a more united cohort of students and professors.


In all colleges, students can find their niche, their group of great friends, and their academic future. What size is best for you?

It is not as important where you go, but what you do when you get there.

Information complied with the help of Guided Path



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© 2015 by Jamie Wallace. Proudly created with Wix.com

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