Which would you prefer: a small classroom environment that allows for ample discussion time, or a large lecture hall where you can blend in and soak up the material?
No matter which one you choose, don’t count on the student-to-faculty ratio to tell you which scenario to expect at prospective colleges and universities. All that really tells you is how many faculty members there are compared to the total number of students at the school. That won’t give you an idea of what your classes will be like.
Instead, ask your tour guide or admissions representative what the average class size is in your desired program. That will tell you how many students to expect in each class.
What can affect class size?
Not all classes are created equal. There are many reasons why some classes could be bigger than others. For example, class size can vary from section to section—a class offered really early in the morning may have fewer students enrolled than a class offered in the afternoon. (Because sleep.)
And lower-level courses will see many more students enrolled because they are part of prerequisites to gain entry into upper-level courses, which tend to be smaller. Additionally, if a new course is added to the catalog for the semester, it may see lower enrollment numbers than others that have been around longer and already have a good reputation.
Does it even matter?
Well, that depends on what is important to you and how you like to learn. Some students need one-on-one attention from a professor to gain a better understanding for the material. Others enjoy simply listening to the lecturer to focus on note taking and later look for answers to their questions online.
While there are those who believe smaller class sizes can positively affect learning, there are no studies in higher education that conclusively say there is a correlation between class size and student achievement.
It all comes down to personal preference. Which learning environment do you think you prefer? It’s definitely something to consider in your college search. But class size is just one of many questions to consider on your college visit. For a list of other important questions to consider, check out our free guide: Top 20 Questions to Ask Before Applying to College.
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