As you are choosing which colleges to apply to, what factors are most important to you? Student-to-faculty ratio should be towards the top of that list. More specifically, this ratio should be as low as possible. This article will explain why you should care about the student-to-faculty ratio, and specifically what you should be looking for in your college search.
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What Does the Ratio Really Mean?
The ratio tells you the number of faculty members at the college per students enrolled. Be cautious of the ratio statistics you find during online searches and at general campus tours. The ratio for the overall institution does not necessarily reflect the ration you will find in your specific program of study. Investigate the course schedules for the exact courses you will be taking. The maximum capacity for each section will give you the most accurate idea of how many students each individual professor has in that course. Then research which additional courses the professor teaches. Be mindful of the fact that the more courses each professor teaches, the less individual attention that professor has to devote to each student.
Why is a Low Ratio Good?
A low ratio of faculty to students could mean that class sizes are smaller. The benefits of smaller classes are multiple. You will get to know the other students better, creating a more intimate network of peers and future colleagues. You will have more of a chance to participate in class discussions. You will be less able to blend into the background, which means you will have higher accountability for completing, turning in, and presenting assignments. With fewer students per section, the professor will have an easier time connecting with each individual student in the classroom.
The lower the ratio, the more time the professor can devote to students outside of class, as well. Office hours will be less crowded. Professors are more likely to be able to make additional office hours when needed. They have fewer student messages to return, so yours will be less likely to get lost in the shuffle, and more likely to receive a more detailed response.
When Do You Prioritize the Ratio?
How important is it to attend a large university and sacrifice the ratio in some courses? Reasons to attend a big university include: obtaining a degree only offered there, the importance of access to campus residential facilities, and the need or desire to attend a school with renowned athletics. If these things are of high importance, prioritize low ratio for courses where you need the highest contact with your professors. This often means settling for unpopular class times. If none of that is important, consider a smaller institution where low ratios of faculty to students are standard across the board. U.S. News and World Report compiled a list of 21 Liberal Arts Colleges with the lowest known ratios.
Now that you know the benefits of having a low student-to-faculty ratio, you can make informed decisions about college applications. Decide when and how consistently low rations are the most important for you. Conduct your own research on individual class ratios. Then begin those applications!