What’s the ideal size of college classes?
Trick question: There is no ideal size. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to decide what you want. Class size can affect your opportunities for class participation, whether you will learn primarily through listening or discussion, the extent of contact you will have with professors, and more.
That’s why it’s important to take the size of college classes — the pros and cons of both large and small classes — into consideration when assessing college academics.
Large college classes can be especially advantageous for shy or withdrawn students who would prefer that class participation not be taken into consideration for grades, as it often is in smaller classes.
Small college classes, on the other hand, offer plenty of opportunities for class discussion, which is ideal for students eager to interact with their classmates and professors.
Large college classes are most likely to be held in a lecture format, with a professor or teaching assistant (often referred to as a “TA”) speaking while students take notes and occasionally ask questions. Small college classes are more likely to follow a discussion format, where students are given a platform to express and share ideas with one another.
While some students may prefer to simply listen to lectures instead of engaging in class discussion, others may prefer a more social setting to learn in. It’s purely a matter of preference.
Different sizes of college classes are bound to give you different levels of face-to-face contact with your professors.
In smaller college classes, you will likely get an opportunity to speak personally with your professor in every class. Your professor will know your name and get to know you on a more personal level. This can be an enormous advantage when you need references from teachers later, or in making you feel more comfortable asking questions.
Large classes will not give you the same opportunity to speak with your professor during class. However, in many cases, students who go out of their way to communicate with professors of large classes outside of class stand out to teachers and develop a bond with professors. If you’re in a large class, you might not get to know your professor during lecture hours, but visiting your professor during office hours can establish a unique personal relationship.
The important thing to realize when considering the size of college classes at the schools where your want to apply is that there is no “ideal.” Larger classes are not necessarily better than smaller classes, and vice versa. It completely depends on the each individual student.When considering the size of college classes as you apply to schools, make sure you are focusing on your needs, and not any preconceived notions of what class size is “best.”