A college’s size can significantly impact a student’s college experience, including its student body, graduating class, academic programs, campus, and much more. And figuring out which size college is best for you can be a tough decision. Some individuals feel more at home in tight-knit communities at small universities, while others find larger ones to be exciting. With each college size having its own qualities and appeal, we’ll delve into what is the average graduating class size in college and how they differ from each other.
What is a Graduating Class Size in College?
The average college graduating class size in a university is more than just a number; it’s a glimpse into the university’s character and goals. From small, intimate ceremonies at liberal arts colleges to grand events in large universities, the number of graduates each year reflects not just the institution’s size, but also its educational approach and student demographics.
Graduating classes often have around a hundred or a little more students in smaller colleges because they are focused on fostering a close-knit community feel. These schools pride themselves on small class sizes and individualized attention, which often translates to a more personal graduation experience. Here, graduates often share a sense of unity and companionship forged through shared experiences in a more concentrated community.
On the other hand, large universities can have graduating classes in the thousands, reflecting their broader range of programs and larger student bodies. The grander ceremonies are a spectacle in their own right, with a sea of caps and gowns stretching as far as the eye can see to embody the diverse and expansive nature of education provided. This graduating number essentially symbolizes the various opportunities available, from numerous majors and extracurricular activities to expansive alumni networks. The bustling campus life at these institutions leads to a vibrant, diverse graduating cohort, with each person having unique stories and aspirations.
What’s the Average Graduating Class Size in College?
So, how many students are in a college? The average graduating class size in colleges varies significantly based on the type and size of the institution. Generally, there are three main types of institutions: small liberal arts colleges, medium-sized institutions, and large universities.
- Small Liberal Arts Colleges: These colleges typically have fewer students overall, and as a result, their graduating classes tend to be smaller. The average graduating class size in such institutions is less than 5000 students and might even range from a few dozen to a few hundred students in very small schools.
- Medium-Sized Institutions: Medium-Sized universities usually have a more diverse range of programs and a larger student body than small liberal arts colleges but are not as large as major universities. The average graduating class size in such colleges generally is around 6000 students and can go up to 15000 students .
- Large Universities: Large universities, especially state universities and major research institutions, have the largest graduating class sizes. They can have graduating classes of around 60,000 to 40,000 students. For example, Arizona State University enrolled around 65,492 students in Fall 2022.
It’s important to note that factors such as the university’s admission policies, retention rates, and the popularity of the programs offered can all influence the size of a graduating class. Additionally, the trend in higher education towards online and part-time study options might also affect these numbers, as more students might take different amounts of time to complete their degrees.
What is Considered Small, Medium and Large Class Sizes in College?
Class sizes are often categorized as small, medium, or large, each having its own impact on the learning environment and student experience. Here’s a general breakdown of what is typically considered small, medium, and large class sizes:
Small Class Sizes
- Number of Students: Typically around 20 students or less with a student-to-teacher ratio ranging from 3:1 to 25:1
- Characteristics: Small class sizes are often found in liberal arts colleges and in upper-level or specialized courses at larger universities. These classes allow for more personalized attention from instructors, greater opportunity for class discussion, and a more intimate learning environment. They are conducive to in-depth discussions, individualized feedback, and closer interaction among students and professors.
Medium Class Sizes
- Number of Students: Generally between 20 to 50 students.
- Characteristics: Such types of classes strike a balance between the intimacy of small classes and the resource availability of large classes. They are common in many undergraduate programs, especially at mid-sized colleges or universities like Amherst University and Boston College. These classes still allow for some level of interaction and discussion, but with less individual attention from the instructor than in small classes.
Large Class Sizes
- Number of Students: Between 60-150 students.
- Characteristics: Large classes are usually lecture-based and are common in lower-level undergraduate courses at large universities. In these settings, individual interaction with the professor may be limited, and the learning experience is more about listening and note-taking. Large classes might utilize teaching assistants to help manage course logistics and provide additional support to students.
Pros and Cons of Small and Large College Class Size
Pros of Small College Class Sizes
- Personalized Attention: Professors can give more individualized attention to each student. This can lead to a better understanding of the material and more academic support.
- Increased Participation: Smaller classes often encourage more discussion and interaction among students and between students and the instructor, resulting in a deeper understanding of the subject matter and improved communication skills.
- Stronger Relationships: Students are more likely to form close relationships with their professors and classmates, which can enhance their academic experience and create networking opportunities.
- Customized Learning: Professors in smaller classes can more easily adapt their teaching methods to suit the class’s needs to improve the overall learning experience.
Cons of Small College Class Sizes
- Limited Course Offerings: Smaller classes are typically found in smaller colleges, which may offer fewer courses and majors compared to larger institutions.
- Potentially Higher Costs: They often entail higher tuition fees, as the cost per student for the college is higher.
- Less Anonymity: In a small class, it’s harder for students to blend into the background, a challenge for those who are shy or prefer to remain less noticeable.
- Limited Perspectives: With fewer students, there may be less diversity of thought and perspective in class discussions.
Pros of Large College Class Sizes
- Diverse Course Offerings: Larger classes are typically found in larger universities that offer a wider range of courses and majors.
- Resource Availability: These institutions often have more resources, including libraries, research facilities, and extracurricular opportunities.
- Networking Opportunities: Large classes can provide a broad network of peers from diverse backgrounds, which can be beneficial for future career opportunities.
- Independence: They encourage independence and self-directed learning, helping students prepare for professional life.
Cons of Large College Class Sizes
- Less Personalized Attention: In large classes, individual interaction with the professor is limited and can affect the level of support and guidance a student receives.
- Limited Participation: As a large class is often taught in a lecture-based format, it can be difficult for students to participate in discussions and to engage actively with the material.
- Feeling Overwhelmed: The sheer size of a large class or lecture hall can be intimidating for some students, making it difficult to connect with classmates and professors.
- Administrative Challenges: Large classes might involve more administrative processes for things like assignment submission, grading, and getting feedback.
Wrapping Things Up: What is the Average Graduating Class Size in College?
Deciding which size college to attend ultimately depends on the kind of social environment you prefer. Now that you’re aware of things such as what is the average graduating class size and what is considered a medium sized college, you can weigh in on the college experience you want. If other college qualities are more important for you than student body size, you can put a mix of large, medium, and small colleges on your application list.