Does Class Size Matter?

by Tim Pate

I remember that during my college search I placed a high value on average class size at my prospective universities. The thought of transitioning from high-school classes of 20 to college rooms that held upwards of 400 was a bit intimidating, so I focused on schools who were able to keep those numbers low.

Now, Colorado State’s numbers in this category are pretty impressive, with an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 34.1% of classes having less than 20 students, but the real question is: To what extent do these numbers matter?

Obviously, the answer to this question varies depending on the student. However, I would like to share my viewpoint as a student who has experienced both large and small classes just within the College of Business.

First of all, it’s important to note that attending a school the size of CSU will ensure that you have at least one massive class. You can’t avoid it, but I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

Larger classes generally mean fewer papers and projects. I guarantee there is no professor who wants to grade 200 10-page papers. Of course, there are exceptions, but I have yet to experience a large class with a heavy emphasis on papers and projects.

A large classroom in Clark A

A large classroom in the Clark Building.

Being in a big class also means you have plenty of others students with whom you can make friends and share ideas about the coursework. Through RamCT, CSU provides a forum for students to ask questions and get help with assignments and studying. In a class with triple digit amounts of students, there is undoubtedly another student who has the same questions you have.

A lot of students worry that they won’t be able to get the help they need in a large class. In my experience, that’s simply not the case. CSU professors are fantastic about checking email and providing reasonable office hours so students can reach them with any problems they may encounter. Even in a large class, the professors make it a priority to meet the needs of the students in every way they can.

Even with all this in mind, it’s important to remember that most of your classes at CSU won’t be huge. Especially as you move into more specialized courses which revolve around your interests and concentration, the average class size will greatly decrease. And while I’ve mentioned the positives of large classes, small classes have some great benefits as well.

Rockwell classroom

A small (and technologically advanced) classroom in the College of Business' Rockwell Hall.

In a small classroom setting, you will know your professor personally (not that this isn’t possible in a large class). They will be personally invested in your success, and they will know how you are doing in that class. These classes will be more interactive, so they will be a great place for you to share ideas, ask questions, and get immediate feedback. Many professors allow small classes greater influence on the material of the course itself. Depending on the subject, you may be part of the process that dictates how to proceed with projects or what material to cover.

So, in your quest for the perfect college, don’t worry so much about the size of your classes. Chances are you’ll get to experience them all, and you’ll find positives in both. It’s more important who is standing at the head of those differently-sized classrooms; and as far as that is concerned, CSU has got the upper hand.

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