What Are The Smallest Colleges in the US?

08/02/202414 minute read
What Are The Smallest Colleges in the US?

When you think about applying to college, you probably consider the size of the school. Whether a university falls into the category of small, medium, or large can significantly influence different facets of the college experience, including academics and social life.

In this blog, we'll focus on the unique characteristics of small colleges along with the pros and cons of attending a small school. Understanding how school size affects the college experience can help you choose the right school by thinking about things like class size, community dynamics, and opportunities for involvement.

Small College Charm

Picture a cozy campus where every corner feels like home, and the hustle and bustle of a close-knit community fills the air. That's the charm of small colleges – they offer an intimate and personalized academic experience that's hard to find at large schools.

If you crave more than just being another face on campus, small colleges provide a special environment where class sizes are smaller, professors know you by name, and you have the chance to build genuine connections with your peers. It's a place where you're not just a student but an integral part of a supportive community that values your voice and unique perspective.

Small colleges also offer some perks you won't find at larger universities, like easy access to research opportunities, hands-on learning experiences, and a flexible curriculum that lets you explore different interests. Plus, the friendships you make here often last a lifetime, thanks to shared experiences both inside and outside the classroom.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by all the college options out there, both small and large, Crimson Education is here to help you. Our college admissions experts act as your personal college navigators, guiding you through the process of finding the right fit for your goals and preferences. From exploring different colleges to crafting standout applications, Crimson is your ally in making informed decisions about your future.

The Appeal of Small Colleges

Attending a small college has many perks that enrich your college experience. One of the best parts is the close-knit community. With fewer students, you get to know everyone, creating a supportive network. Unlike larger universities where you may feel lost in the crowd, small colleges prioritize individualized support, ensuring that you receive the guidance and assistance they need to succeed academically and personally.

Small colleges are also known for fostering strong student-faculty relationships. With faculty members who are deeply invested in their students' success, you have the chance to work closely with professors on research projects, participate in meaningful discussions and receive personalized feedback that enhances your learning experience.

Overall, the supportive and nurturing environment of small colleges encourages you to step out of your comfort zone, explore new interests, and pursue your passions with confidence. Whether it's through internships, study abroad programs, or extracurricular activities, small colleges offer a wealth of opportunities and support systems for you to broaden your horizons, develop valuable skills, and discover your strengths.

Characteristics of Small Colleges

As mentioned, small colleges are characterized by their intimate and tight-knit communities, offering a unique academic and social environment for students. However, there are a variety of common characteristics defining small colleges, including:

  1. Smaller Student Populations: Small colleges typically have fewer students compared to larger universities, meaning that small schools accept fewer applicants than larger schools.
  2. Smaller Class Sizes: With fewer students, small colleges often boast smaller class sizes, allowing for more meaningful interactions between students and professors.
  3. Specialized Programs: Despite their smaller size, many small colleges offer specialized programs and majors tailored to students' interests and career goals. These programs may provide unique opportunities for hands-on learning, research, and professional development in niche fields.
  4. Strong Community Engagement: Small colleges often prioritize community engagement and service, encouraging you to become actively involved in campus life and contribute to the local community. This may involve volunteering, internships, service-learning projects, or participating in outreach programs.
  5. Extracurricular Activities and Student Involvement: Small colleges provide numerous opportunities for you to take on roles and responsibilities outside the classroom. This may include student government, campus publications, academic clubs, performing arts groups, and more. You also have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of clubs, organizations, and sports teams.

Smallest Colleges in the US - A Closer Look

The United States is home to approximately 6,000 higher education institutions, with the average college population size around 6,000 students. Spanning across all 50 states, the US offers a variety of small colleges for students pursuing a wide range of majors and programs. Below are some of the smallest colleges in the US with enrollment sizes under 1,000 students.

Harvey Mudd CollegeCollege of the AtlanticGoshen CollegeWarren Wilson College
LocationClaremont, CABar Harbor, MEGoshen, INSwannanoa, NC
Total Enrollment911349768825
Student-to-Faculty Ratio9:110:19:110:1
Majors Offered10Custom Curriculum4020+
  1. Harvey Mudd College
    • Part of the Claremont Colleges, which share adjoining campus grounds and resources
    • Liberal Arts College of Engineering, Science and Mathematics
    • The intercollegiate athletic program includes football, softball, water polo, diving, basketball, volleyball, soccer, cross country, swimming, track and field, lacrosse and tennis
  2. College of the Atlantic
    • Located on Mount Desert island, in the middle of Acadia National Park
    • All students design their own major in human ecology
    • 28 student-led clubs/organizations
  3. Goshen College
    • Private liberal arts college and a Hispanic-Serving institution
    • Is an affiliate of Mennonite Church USA
    • 21 student-led clubs/organizations, 10 intramural sports, and 14 intercollegiate athletics teams
  4. Warren Wilson College
    • Known for its curriculum that combines academics, work, and service as every student must complete a required course of study, work an on-campus job, and perform community service
    • Its campus has 25 miles of hiking trails threading through hundreds of acres of forest
    • 6 student-led clubs/organizations and 20 sports teams (men and women)

Navigating the Application Process for Small Colleges

When applying to small colleges, it's important to understand each schools' requirements and procedures. While these may vary slightly from college to college, there are some common aspects to consider:

  • Completed application form: This includes personal information, academic background, extracurricular activities, and any additional information required by the college.
  • High school transcripts: Official transcripts of your high school grades are usually required. Some colleges may also request standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT, although many small colleges are test-optional or test-flexible.
  • Letters of recommendation: Typically, small colleges require letters of recommendation from teachers, guidance counselors, or other individuals who can speak to your academic abilities and character.
  • Importance of Personal Story: Small colleges often place a strong emphasis on getting to know applicants as individuals. Therefore, showcasing your personal interests, achievements, and goals in the application process is crucial. This allows admissions committees to understand who you are beyond your academic record and test scores.

Your personal statement or essays are another key component of your application. To ensure that your essays stand out, be sure to:

  • Be authentic: Share genuine experiences, insights, and reflections that highlight your unique personality and perspective.
  • Show passion: Demonstrate your enthusiasm for learning, extracurricular activities, and any special interests or hobbies you have.
  • Be specific: Provide concrete examples and anecdotes to illustrate your points and make your essay more memorable.
  • Connect with the college: Research the college's mission, values, and programs, and tailor your essay to demonstrate how you would contribute to and benefit from the college community.
  • Proofread carefully: Make sure to proofread your essay for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. It's also helpful to have someone else review your essay for feedback.
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Overcoming Potential Concerns

If you're considering attending a small college, you may have some concerns regarding limited resources or a perceived lack of diversity. However, it's essential to recognize that small colleges often provide unique support systems and opportunities that address these concerns.

Limited Resources:

  • Concern: Small colleges may have limited resources compared to larger universities, impacting academic programs, facilities, and extracurricular opportunities.
  • Solution: Small colleges may offer specialized programs and resources tailored to their size, fostering a more intimate and personalized learning environment. Additionally, small class sizes allow for more individualized attention from professors and access to resources that may not be as readily available in larger institutions.

Perceived Lack of Diversity:

  • Concern: There is a lack of diversity at small colleges, both in terms of student body demographics and cultural experiences.
  • Solution: While small colleges may have smaller student populations, many of them actively recruit students from diverse backgrounds and offer support services, cultural organizations, and programming to foster a sense of community and belonging for all students.

Aligning Personal Preferences and Academic Goals:

  • Concern: A small college might not meet my specific academic interests and career goals.
  • Solution: It's important to research and evaluate small colleges based on their academic offerings, faculty expertise, and campus culture. Many small colleges excel in specific academic areas or offer unique interdisciplinary programs that may align with your interests.

While concerns about small colleges may arise, it's important to recognize the unique support systems and opportunities that these institutions provide. By aligning your personal preferences and academic goals with the college's offerings and actively engaging with the campus community, you can thrive and succeed in a small college environment.

The Consultancy Advantage

To enhance your chances of admission to your dream school, Crimson Education offers various avenues of support. Whether you need assistance with essays, SAT prep, academic tutoring, or extracurricular recommendations, our team is here to help. We've been instrumental in aiding thousands of students in discovering and evaluating colleges that suit their academic and personal preferences.

Our admissions experts provide invaluable insights, guidance, and support throughout the college search and application process. With our extensive knowledge of various colleges, including small colleges, we can recommend institutions that align with your academic interests, extracurricular pursuits, and cultural preferences.

Beyond helping students discover their ideal colleges, our admissions experts offer additional services to streamline the application process. They provide guidance on crafting compelling applications, including writing strong personal statements or essays tailored to each school's unique characteristics. Additionally, they offer advice on navigating the financial aid process and assisting students in exploring scholarship opportunities, grants, and other forms of financial assistance.

For comprehensive admissions guidance, Crimson Education is your one-stop shop, offering assistance in every aspect of the application process.


If you're weighing your college options, consider the unique benefits of small colleges. These institutions offer an enriching academic experience marked by close-knit communities, personalized attention, and strong student-faculty relationships. With smaller class sizes and a focus on individualized support, students have the opportunity to actively engage in their education and build meaningful connections with peers and professors.

At Crimson Education, we're dedicated to helping students find the perfect fit for their academic journey. Our team of admissions experts offers personalized guidance throughout the college search and application process, helping students discover and evaluate colleges that align with their preferences.

With our comprehensive approach to admissions guidance, students can confidently navigate the process and find their ideal academic home for future success.

To set up a free consultation with one of our admissions experts, visit https://www.crimsoneducation.org/us/contact/.