Does the size of your medical school really matter?

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	Classroom size may have a larger impact on learning than you think.
    Classroom size may have a larger impact on learning than you think.

    Does the size of your medical school really matter?

    Getting into medical school can be a stressful process. There are rigorous applications to fill out, tests to take and recommendations to ask for. Luckily, the admissions rates for medical students has gone up by 25 percent since 2002, according to a study from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

    But long before any of that, in the initial stages of searching for the right medical school, many students will actually consider the size of the school. After all, wouldn't people get a better education in a classroom with less students than with more? Others would argue that larger institutions may have resources that students can use that smaller schools simply don't have. So what is the consensus?

    There isn't one. It all boils down to what the student likes best, and how well he or she can learn in that environment. However, if you just started your search and you are on the fence between a big school and small one, consider these pros of each.

    "In a small classroom setting, students truly experience hands-on learning."

    Small schools
    If you're looking at smaller schools and colleges that offer a medical program, there are definitely some perks to consider.

    • Intimate settings
      One thing small schools offer that large schools don't is a small, intimate setting. While some students might not appreciate this type of classroom, other students thrive in it. In a classroom with just a few students and an instructor, students truly experience hands-on learning. If a concept is unclear, they might feel more comfortable raising their hand to get clarity, or just to further discuss a topic. Students who do well in these small environments may feel intimidated in larger environments and won't be willing to offer their opinion or ask questions out of fear.
    • Strong bonds
      In lecture halls, it might be difficult for students to make friends with their peers around them. However, in small classroom environments, students have an easier time getting to know one another and sharing common interests. Small classrooms may also encourage more partnered activities, so students get to know each other better through learning activities than they would in a larger classroom environment. Encouraging classroom discussions may also lead to students getting to know each other's opinions and aligning with them.
    • Student engagement
      Small classroom settings tend to encourage high levels of student engagement, as students are less likely to get distracted and are more likely to get called on by teachers. While constantly staying alert may seem like a con, students learn much more in the long run and are able to feel more comfortable with their professor than they might feel in a larger school.

    Large schools
    If you're looking at a larger college or university that offers a medical program, it also might have some pros worth thinking about.

    • More resources
      By nature, larger institutions have more money, and as a result, are able to spend it on more resources and new learning supplements. For example, larger schools may be able to provide students with a new laboratory, updated books and software and even more classrooms. They also might introduce students to state-of-the-art medical technology that's being used in today's hospitals, such as electronic medical records.
    • More diversity
      Large schools are notoriously more diverse in their student bodies. Students tend to come from all over the world, they have different experiences and they have different backgrounds. Some might greatly appreciate this as they believe they learn more around those who aren't like them or who might offer teaching methods that are outside the box. Others believe it will give people a greater appreciation for other cultures and make them more open-minded.
    • More rotation choices
      If students know that certain professors are an expert in one type of medicine, they will want to try and spend a rotation with them. However, in smaller programs, students rarely have the option of getting the mentor they want. However, in larger programs, students often have more professors and rotations to choose from, so they have better odds of getting into a rotational program they like and learning under mentors they prefer.

    By Monique Smith

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