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The 35 Biggest Colleges in the United States

Posted by Samantha Lindsay | Sep 1, 2017 5:30:00 PM

College Admissions

 

feature_largestuniversities

You might be interested in attending a big college, but just how big are you thinking? Some schools have over 40,000 undergraduates, making them the size of a small city. These schools can provide great opportunities to students, but they can also be a little overwhelming.

In this article, I’ll give you a list of the biggest colleges for undergraduates in the US along with student feedback about what it’s really like to be part of such a large college community.

 

Why Are These Colleges So Big?

Most of the biggest colleges are public state universities. It makes sense that these schools attract the most students because they provide incentives for students who live in the state to attend.

The largest schools are located in the most populous states. Thus, California, Texas, and Florida (the three most populous states in the US) are home to many of the schools on this list.

These schools are also large because they are meccas for academic research and offer a wide variety of programs to students. Being located in populous states means that these universities must cater to diverse groups of people, leading to the creation of more academic options and research facilities that encourage even more students to enroll. It’s essentially a cycle of increasing returns for the schools. Public universities also have the resources to grow their campuses and facilities through government support.

There are some very large private colleges, but it’s difficult for them to rival the size of government-funded public universities. Other circumstances might have contributed to the growth of big private colleges, from wealthy alumni to religious connections. For example, Brigham Young University—the private college with the largest undergraduate population—has grown so large mainly due to its affiliation with the (rapidly expanding) Mormon Church.

 

What’s It Like at a Huge College?

Here are some testimonials from students about what it’s like to attend three of the largest colleges in the country.

 

Texas A&M University

“I don't regret one moment, because I loved the overall camaraderie of the school—they don't call it the friendliest campus in America without reason!”

“I am a theatre major at Texas A&M, a program most people are unaware even exists. It is tough being in a small department in a large school, but simply due to the Aggie Network and facilities present for all students, even those of us in small departments are learning as much as we possibly can.

Students have access to different student services, like a writing center that will help with papers and research, a testing center that will help you to study better and make learning easier, an on-campus health center, and even small things that make huge differences like 300 free prints a semester in the computer center and access to free programs at the recreation center.”

“Texas A&M is an excellent university for those students who love or don't mind traditions.

 

body_texasam-1The administration building at Texas A&M

 

Purdue University

I really enjoy the classes I am taking, and the social life is awesome! There is definitely something for everyone. Whether you are wanting to get involved in Greek life or maybe just a few clubs, it all is available at Purdue. Being able to attend Big Ten sporting events isn't so bad either.”

Purdue has something to offer for everyone, no matter where they come from, what their major is, or what their interests are. It is a well-rounded university, full of students who are proud to study there.”

“I used to think I wanted to go to a small school, but at Purdue, you get both the big-school and small-school experience. Attention in classes (sometimes you have to seek it out, but it's there), but huge atmosphere where the possibilities are endless.”

 

body_purdueA fountain on Purdue's campus

 

UCLA 

“It will be entirely up to you to do homework problems and to go to office hours for questions and insight. Self-motivation, especially in science and math courses, is a key factor to success here.

“At UCLA, the world awaits. Shy and overly reserved people will miss out on all that the school has to offer.

“At this university, I am receiving the total package: academics, research, and world-renowned athletic programs. I can honestly say that the balanced undergraduate experience I am obtaining is worth every penny.”

“With hundreds of student organizations available every year, UCLA makes it easy to find one’s niche.

“The diversity here is truly astounding, with people from all types of backgrounds, and you truly gain a more global perspective.

 

body_ucla-1The UCLA campus


At these schools, you can expect virtually endless resources, diversity, and extracurricular activities, but you have to be willing to get yourself out there and be self-motivated. If you’re a driven, outgoing student, you’re likely to thrive at a huge college.

 

The Biggest Colleges (Public and Private)

I’ve included two lists: one for the biggest public colleges, and one for the biggest private colleges.

The public colleges below have more than 25,000 undergraduates, and the private colleges have more than 15,000 undergraduates. I did not include colleges where a large portion of the student body is composed of online students because this doesn’t create the same environment as a school that has a huge on-campus population.

All schools below are arranged by undergraduate enrollment, from largest to smallest. In addition, all enrollment statistics are for fall 2016 unless otherwise noted.

 

Biggest Public Colleges in the US by On-Campus Undergraduate Enrollment

College Undergraduate Enrollment
University of Central Florida 55,783
Texas A&M University — College Station 48,346
The Ohio State University 45,831
Florida International University 45,813
Arizona State University — Tempe 42,477
Penn State University — University Park 41,359
UT Austin 40,168
Indiana University — Bloomington 39,184
Michigan State University 39,090
California State University — Northridge 35,552*
California State University — Fullerton 34,576*
University of Florida 34,554
University of Arizona 34,072*
Texas State University 33,480
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 33,467
Rutgers University — New Brunswick 33,060**
Florida State University 32,669
University of Alabama 32,563*
California State University — Long Beach 32,246*
University of Washington — Seattle 31,418
University of Minnesota — Twin Cities 30,975
UCLA 30,873
University of South Florida — Tampa 30,619
Iowa State University 30,406*
Purdue University 30,043
University of California — Davis 29,546
University of Wisconsin — Madison 29,536
University of California — Berkeley 29,311*
University of Michigan — Ann Arbor 28,983
University of Missouri 25,898*

*Fall 2017; **Fall 2015

 

Biggest Private Colleges in the US by On-Campus Undergraduate Enrollment

College Undergraduate Enrollment
Brigham Young University 30,395*
New York University 28,341**
University of Southern California 19,000 (rounded)
Northeastern University 17,506*
Boston University 16,075*
DePaul University 15,407

 *Fall 2017; **Fall 2015

 

What's Next?

Is a big college the right choice for you? Read my article on deciding whether big or small schools will work better for your goals and personality.

Worried about increasingly higher tuition price tags? Find out how much it really costs to attend college.

Another decision you'll have to make before you apply to college is how far away you want to go. Check out this article on whether you should attend college close to home.

 

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Samantha Lindsay
About the Author

Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.



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