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The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the dialogue between faith and reason. Our blog is dedicated to helping you explore your future career possibilities and how to make the most of your college experience.

Benefits of Smaller Classes in College

When choosing a college, you want to make sure the school you choose is the right fit for your unique personal, academic and career goals. But there are so many factors that influence your experience that it can be hard to know where to begin your research.

One important thing that aspiring students often don’t think to investigate is a school’s average class size or “student-to-faculty ratio.” Regardless of what major you choose, there are plenty of benefits of smaller classes.

Why are smaller classes better, you ask? Keep reading to discover some surprising advantages that colleges with small class sizes offer.

But first, what is an average college class size?

In order to know what’s considered a smaller class size, you’re probably wondering what an average university class size is. Unfortunately there is no clear-cut answer to this question, because it depends on a few different factors.

Average class sizes can vary significantly based on the size and type of the university, in addition to the course level. Some universities make a distinction between lower- and upper-level courses, and some average it across all classes. For example, at a small-to-medium private liberal arts institution, a student-to-faculty ratio of 15 students (or fewer) to 1 instructor (or, in other words, “a 15:1 faculty-to-student ratio”) would be considered a small class.

4 reasons to seek out colleges with small class sizes

We enlisted Ryan Konkright, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of St. Thomas (UST), to help outline four of the many benefits of smaller class sizes during college. Read on to get his expert insight on the topic.

1.    You’ll have greater access to individual attention from faculty

Any teacher can tell you that understanding and catering to each student’s learning style is an important part of the job. With smaller classes, there are fewer disruptions and instructors are better able to keep everyone engaged, provide detailed feedback, answer questions and work one-on-one with those who need additional help.

In classes with dozens (or even hundreds) of students, professors might not even be able to learn everyone’s name – much less their strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. For these reasons, Konkright believes lecture hall settings are not ideal for most students.

“Small classes are advantageous because you get more individual attention from professors – many of whom are content or industry experts and have unique perspectives to share,” Konkright explains. He believes students stand to gain a lot from increased interactions and discussions with their professors.

This kind of personalized attention can make all the difference when it comes to academic success. For example, nursing and pre-med degrees have significant math components and demanding schedules. Instructors are better able to support students who require extra help when class sizes are manageable.

2.    You can build close connections with peers

Another appealing benefit of smaller class sizes is that you’re not just another face in the crowd. You have the chance to get to know people through class discussions, group conversations, and projects. Making new friends and finding people with like-minded interests is an important and exciting part of the college experience. In larger classes, it’s often the most extroverted or talkative students that get the most attention, leaving less room for introverted or quieter students to participate.

“I’m always honest with prospective students, telling them: Higher education is an investment in yourself, so you want to get back as much as you put in,” Konkright shares. “Small class sizes add a lot of value to that investment.”

3.    You’ll participate in more robust and meaningful class discussions

Imagine two different learning environments. Class A is a large, lofty room with risers of desks filled with 150 students and a professor delivering a lecture from a stage. Class B is a room of 25 students and a professor speaking from their desk or at the whiteboard. Which class do you think will have more time to review the material, ask questions or discuss something directly with the professor?

Students thrive when they have a safe, inclusive environment where they’re encouraged to pose questions, share opinions and challenge different viewpoints. This often leads to an even deeper understanding of many concepts and their real-life applications. Interacting with different viewpoints and perspectives creates a rich and dynamic learning environment.

4.    You’ll have more career planning opportunities

One often overlooked advantage of colleges with smaller class sizes is the increased opportunities to partake in career planning activities. More face time with your professors offers more chances for them to get to know you and help you meet your professional goals – or explore your career options. They can also offer support or provide guidance on your next steps after graduation.

For example, building a personal relationship with a professor can help you acquire meaningful recommendation letters for grad school or professional references for a job. Rather than just saying “This student got an A in my class,” they can elaborate on your personal growth and development, the challenges you overcame, and your strengths and aptitudes.

“Employers are increasingly looking for prospective hires to have well-developed soft skills like empathy, problem solving, and the ability to have difficult conversations and build consensus. Small classrooms really prepare students to excel at these things before they enter the workforce,” Konkright explains.

Get the support and attention you need to succeed

Now that you know more about the many benefits of smaller class sizes, you can ask the right questions as you research your higher education options. You’ll find all of these perks and more at UST, where our student-to-faculty ratio is just 14:1. We pride ourselves on our ability to build genuine connections between professors and students. With more than 40 undergraduate majors and 30 graduate degrees, there’s a great chance you’ll find the perfect program for you.

You’ll benefit from more than just our small classes. Learn more in our article “5 Student Resources That Help UST Students Succeed.”

Ready to take the next step?

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About UST

The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the religious, ethical and intellectual traditions of Catholic higher education. For more than 70 years, we’ve been graduating students like you into successful careers in medicine, education, business, public administration and more – throughout Houston and across the globe.

Learn more about what UST has to offer.