When I was applying to college, I avoided schools with large populations like the plague. This tendency was not born of my own preferences but was rather a result of the warnings I had received from classmates and online forums. These warnings instilled in me a fear that if I attended a large university, I would get lost in the numbers, I would miss out on the standard ‘college experience.’ Despite this fear, I ended up choosing to attend UC Berkeley, a school made up of roughly 40,000 students. Among the many things that my first year of college taught me, I learned that the warnings I had received when applying to school were not as accurate as I had once believed them to be. With this article, I hope to debunk some of the myths surrounding what it’s like to go to a university with a large population.

1. All your classes will have hundreds of students

This is by far the most common argument I hear against attending large universities. As someone who needs small class sizes to encourage participation, I can’t deny that I was worried that this would be the case. After my first week, however, I realized that my concern had been unfounded. Though I did have one course with a size that neared the triple digits, most of my courses had no more than 30 students, and some had as few as 10. Not only was I able to experience the benefits of small classes - the individual attention from the professor, frequent participation, the close relationships with my professor and classmates - I was able to enjoy a healthy mix of class sizes. In my lecture course - a ‘Big Ideas’ course that brought together two professors from two different disciplines to teach evolution - I was able to sit back and fully immerse myself in the material being taught to me by the frontrunners of their respective fields. Though it was a lecture course, the professors encouraged participation and often found themselves in lengthy discussions and debates with their students. Later on in the week, we would meet in smaller groups with graduate student instructors and further explore the ideas that the professors introduced in lecture, which led to an even richer understanding of the material. Attending a large university does not limit my academic experience but rather ensures that I am able to profit and grow as a student from the unique benefits of both class sizes.

2. You won’t have a small community

Creating several small communities out of one large community was perhaps my favorite experience of my first year at college. I found a sense of community in my dorm, in my classes, and in my clubs. What made these communities all the more special were the surprising connections between the people in my different communities that created the feeling that everyone I knew was someone related. My small communities started to blend together, forming a larger, more cohesive one when I learned, for example, that my friend from French class was the roommate of my friend from my writing organization. This sense of smaller communities coming together to form a larger one was all the more apparent during events when the majority of the school would come together, whether for a sports game, a spirit rally, or a community-based event. Never have I felt a stronger feeling of belonging than when I was surrounded by my classmates at a school event, knowing that we were all connected by our shared pride in our university.

3. You won’t be able to form relationships with your professors

Forming relationships with professors is not a result of the size of your school but is rather a result of your own initiative. Though in-class participation is a good start to a relationship with any professor, the real key is office hours. Even at large universities, professors are always available to meet with undergraduate students during their office hours, and it is here that students can pose questions and partake in discussions with their favorite professors. No matter the university, there will always be professors who are eager to get to know their students, for any learning experience is enriched when both teacher and student are equally engaged in the process. Forming relationships with your professors is a vital aspect of widening your academic life.

If you are in the process of applying to university, don’t be afraid to consider schools with large populations! Remember that there are many other important factors to consider when deciding if a school is right for you other than just its size and that a large university has its own unique benefits to offer.