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Admissions 101: You Can't Always Judge a School By Its Size

In Admissions 101, Jay and readers are discussing the merits of small colleges vs. large colleges. Aflagel1 points out you can't always judge a school's attributes by its size:

I have worked and consulted for small and large schools, attended a medium sized school for my undergraduate and masters, and a very large school for my PhD. The reality is that there are very large schools where students can have very limited options, either because they have such structured programs that it is hard to explore more than one possibility, or because their programs are so siloed and slow to change that many are outdated - interestingly, you can find small schools with exactly the same problems. Of course, there are also large schools that give every bit of the depth and range of options Jay describes, but in fairness there are smaller institutions that give nearly as much if not more. The assumption many make is that smaller schools give more personal attention. That is surely true of many, but there are also plenty that fail thoroughly in that respect, just as there are large schools that do exceptionally well at giving personal attention.
Bottom line - the idea that the volume of students attending a school is the best indicator of options or attention is entirely misleading, a glaring logical misconception. The culture, programs, atmosphere, and policies of institutions are the source of attention (or inattention), as well as array of options (or lack thereof).

By Washington Post Editors  | April 28, 2009; 10:57 AM ET
Categories:  Admissions 101  | Tags:  small schools vs. large schools  
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I agree with the writer. I think it boils down to the old cliche, that you ahve to find the right school for YOU, not for your parents, your friends, your neighbors. I went to a small school and it was the best decision for me, and in now way to it hamper getting into one of the top graduate programs in the country at my first choice when I went back to school a few years later.

My sister, however, absolutely thrived at an exceedingly large state university, and it was the right place for her, and she found the right program within the school for her. If you had us trade schools, though, it would ahve been ugly, we both likely would have had miserable times.

Posted by: RedBirdie | April 28, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

The thing I disliked the most about the University of Maryland that shouldn't have been true, was that due to the size and competitiveness in top programs, I was not allowed to take classes in IT / Computers or Business without being admitted to those programs. I got my MS in IT and am looking at an MBA. How I would have liked to have gotten my feet wet in undergrad.

Posted by: bbcrock | April 28, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

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