Small vs. Large Universities: What to Consider

There are many factors to consider when choosing your university, one of which is whether you’d prefer to go to a small or large school. This will help you narrow down your options considerably. However, it’s important to first understand the differences between small and large universities, as well as why someone may prefer one over the other.

Advantages of Small Universities

Small universities have a maximum of 5,000 students, which creates a community feel. Whereas there are usually too many people for you to know everyone, you will find that many faces quickly become familiar. Students often develop personal relationships with their professors and gain personalized advice from faculty members. There is an emphasis on teaching and students receive individual attention in small classes.

Many students choose small universities for the chance to create their own majors (as opposed to following a program the school has designed). Some also like the opportunity to stand out and gain leadership skills.

Disadvantages of Small Universities

Although you may be able to create your own major, you’ll have less choice of classes to begin with. If there’s something specific you want to study, you may need to go to a large university.

The same goes for if you need access to modern resources, such as research facilities. In addition, you’ll have less choice in terms of social activities at a small university, and you’ll likely find the sports teams receive less funding. Lastly, many small universities are in rural areas, where you may feel quite isolated.

Advantages of Large Universities

With typically more than 15,000 students, large universities give you the chance to meet many new people. You’ll often find a more diverse range of students, which means a higher likelihood of finding people with similar passions to you — particularly if you have some niche interests. There also tend to be more opportunities for both academics and extracurricular activities.

Not only do large universities have more space for additional students, they tend to have a greater range of facilities. This may include research materials and well-funded sports programs. These facilities attract faculty members who are top in their fields — you may even have the chance to collaborate with these professors on their research, which will be invaluable if you intend to continue on to graduate school.

Disadvantages of Large Universities

The main disadvantage of large universities is the lack of individual attention. Classes may have more than a hundred students, making it difficult to stand out. For the same reason, it’s up to you to make sure you find opportunities for yourself. You’re less likely to have a mentor who will let you know when something becomes available that could be perfect for you. It will be up to you to advocate for yourself and seek resources.

Another problem is that the large amount of social activities can be distracting. It’s easy to become involved in too much and start neglecting your academics. In addition, large universities can be more bureaucratic. This means it may take more effort to switch majors, as you’ll need to gain approval from more people. These downsides are less of an issue if you are relatively sure about what you want to do and motivated to achieve your goals.

Medium-Sized Universities

Of course, there’s also an option in between: medium-sized universities, which have between 5,000 and 15,000 students. As these have a mixture of the advantages and disadvantages of both small and large universities, it’s important to assess each individually to see if it has the features that matter to you.

If you decide a large university is for you, McMaster University is a great option — not least because you have some great choices for housing. Instead of living in McMaster residence, you can rent a room at West Village Suites. All the suites have updated furniture, there’s fast WiFi throughout the building, and you’ll even have access to a self-checkout grocery market on site.

Book a tour to take a look for yourself.

Ready to apply?

Ready to apply?

Tell us your apartment preferences and we will do everything we can to place you in the unit that’s best for you.

Apply Now