Benefits of a Small Class Size in College


Last updated November 15, 2023

Many factors go into the college selection – such as location and majors offered. But what about class size? When choosing your college, it’s important to think about your learning style and how it relates to class size. Studies have indicated that benefits of small class size include, increased individual attention, better communication between educators and learners, and greater active student participation. 

A Scholastic survey found that 62% of teachers believe having fewer students in a class can significantly enhance academic performance. A student with less than 20 peers can feel comfortable raising their hand and getting immediate feedback from the teacher if there’s a challenging topic during the class—versus getting lost in a sea of 100+ students in a big lecture class and avoiding asking questions without the teacher knowing.

At Furman, the average class size is 14 students, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1. Consider this ratio before you enroll, as a small class size could provide you what you need to succeed. 

Smaller Classes Enhance Student-Teacher Interaction

One of the benefits of small class sizes is a closer relationship between students and professors, resulting in individualized attention and feedback. Professors can identify strengths and weaknesses and guide students to improve their performance. 

Encouraging students to participate in discussions and express their opinions leads to a faster and more efficient learning process. This interactive approach to learning helps build confidence and critical thinking skills as you hear each other’s ideas and opinions, enriching the learning experience.

Networking and building close relationships with professors can also lead to more in-depth feedback on assignments and career trajectories. It’s hard to navigate requirements and think about future career paths, but mentoring can help with both. They can write recommendation letters for internships, jobs and graduate school applications and provide advice along the way.

Smaller Classes Lead To an Active Learning Environment

When fewer students are in a class, it allows for more personal connections between students. This often leads to strong, lasting friendships and trust in the classroom. In larger auditorium-style classes, the instructors usually rely on lectures and slideshow presentations while the students listen and take notes with a quiz or paper due every few weeks. However, not everyone excels in this learning environment.

A smaller class offers more variety, creativity and hands-on learning opportunities. The professor can combine lectures and group exercises to help students better understand the subject matter. This approach motivates students to participate and enables them to benefit more from the class session. By sharing their ideas and asking questions, students can improve their understanding of the course material.

Smaller class sizes can also promote collaboration and in-depth discussions, making it less likely students will fall behind. With fewer students, teachers can provide more attention to each student and customize coursework to fit their needs. They can quickly assess the group’s learning styles and tailor their approach, resulting in a personalized curriculum. This approach ensures that students don’t have to learn about topics they have mastered; they can move on to the next subject.

At Furman’s Center for Engaged Learning, you can complement the benefits of smaller class sizes with internships, study abroad, research, and other opportunities for an extra layer of personalized education.

Correlation Between Class Size and Student Achievement

Small classes facilitate faster learning and enable students to learn more effectively. One study found that one of the benefits of small class sizes is higher classroom engagement and increased focus. As a result, the course material is covered more quickly, and students are encouraged to share opinions, ask and answer questions, and interact with their peers. 

In large classrooms, it can be challenging for everyone to have the opportunity to speak and engage in discussions. It can have a negative impact on their learning experience, as you may miss out on valuable opportunities to participate in class activities and share their thoughts with their peers. 

However, in smaller classes, every student can ask questions, give feedback, and share their perspective on the subject matter. Students are:

  • More likely to participate in class. In smaller classes, students feel more comfortable participating, facilitating critical thinking and learning from peers.
  • More individualized attention. In smaller classes, teachers have more time to get to know each student, thus providing them with better academic and emotional support, which builds confidence and success.
  • More timely feedback. In smaller classes, teachers have more time to recognize students’ value and give immediate feedback on assignments.

Small class size fosters an environment conducive to active participation and encourages students to develop their academic voice, confidence and public speaking skills.

Small Classes Foster a Supportive Learning Community

The benefits of smaller class sizes can impact students’ ability to connect with their peers, share their ideas and broaden their perspectives. With fewer students in each class, you have more opportunities to establish meaningful and long-lasting friendships, especially as you work on small group projects. 

Students can collaborate effectively, engage in meaningful discussions, and work closely together, enhancing learning and interpersonal skills. Smaller class sizes also create a more supportive learning environment, as students are more likely to get to know their classmates and form strong peer relationships. 

Beyond schoolwork, a small class size can help students stand out as individuals. Professors can identify strengths and help you achieve academic success. The classroom setting allows for more meaningful interactions, where your contributions are acknowledged and appreciated, which can positively affect your self-esteem and confidence. 

The Power of Small Class Sizes

The benefits of smaller class sizes are many. It creates an environment where personalized attention helps students to be more involved, ask questions, and establish meaningful relationships with their professors and classmates. 

When selecting a college, weighing the significance of class size in your decision-making process is crucial. You can reap the many benefits of this learning environment by choosing a college with smaller class sizes. You will have the opportunity to receive personalized attention from their professors, engage in active learning, improve your academic performance, and join a supportive community of peers. 

Like Smaller Class Sizes? Check Out Furman!

Furman University offers smaller classes and personalized attention with an average class size of 14 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1. Our approach to learning is designed to be more engaging and effective – it’s The Furman Advantage.

We provide a hands-on learning experience, personalized attention and a space to create community with your classmates. Students learn better and faster in smaller classes, preparing them for the workforce. Read more about how we know The Furman Advantage is preparing our students to be innovators and contributors.

The views and opinions expressed in the Furman Blog are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Furman University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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