September 1, 2023


Study Abroad 101

Big or small: Which US high school size is best for international students?

One important factor that should impact international students’ decision of studying high school in the US is the size of the student body at the school. In this post, we will lay out the advantages of different school sizes and explain which might suit you best.

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There are so many factors to consider when international students (and their parents!) make the decision to study high school in the United States. West coast vs. East coast? Warm weather versus cold weather? Big city or small town? The list of factors international students must think about can go on forever.  

One important factor that should impact their ultimate decision is the size of the student body at the high school. The size of a high school plays an important factor in the overall experience of a high school student.

What is considered a small, medium or large sized high school in the US?

Below is a breakdown of a high school size in the US:

1) Extremely small schools, with less than 300 students

2) Small high schools, with 300 to 600 students.

3) Medium high schools, with 600 to 1200 students

2) Large high schools, with 1200 plus students.

There can be extremely small high schools with less than 300 students (approximately 75 students or less per grade) and very large high schools with 5,000 students (with more than 1000 students per grade). There are nearly 30,000 high schools,both public and private, in the United States.

Let’s look at the advantages of both smaller and larger US high schools!

Advantages of a smaller high school

In the U.S., when students think about the size of a high school, their minds most likely do not automatically go to the overallstudent population (grades 9 -12), and the actual classroom size, an extremely important thing to consider when choosing a school. With smaller schools, approximately 75 students (or less) per grade, class sizes will be smaller. Small class sizes mean a lower teacher-student ratio, which brings more attention and focus on each individual student.

Scaling back class size is beneficial to students because it offers the opportunity to delve deeper into the curriculum and move through it at a faster pace. It also allows teachers to engage more with their students, allowing them to understand each students’ strengths and weaknesses with subject matters.  Teachers are more understanding of the challenges their students face and can help each in the appropriate, most effective ways. Smaller class sizes compel students to speak out more and participate in class discussions, at the same time making it less intimidating.  

Smaller schools promote more of a community sense of belongingness. Smaller schools usually have a stronger sense of unity, where the school community (teachers, parents, students) share a particular belief system when it comes to educating their students and providing a safe, inclusive environment. It is very easy for international students to feel welcomed in these smaller school communities, where they feel more empowered and confident to be involved within the community immediately. Take for instance, a sports team at a small school. In a big school, competition is extremely intense and many students who wish to be part of a team, may not get any playing time (or even make the team). However, smaller schools provide more opportunity for international students to not only be on the team, but receive a true experience of a student athlete, actively participating in games/competitions.

Advantages of a larger school

So then what is great about large high schools? In some cases, larger schools can be more advantageous than smaller schools due to its diversity in curriculum. For instance, students may have more opportunities for challenging coursework with a wider selection of courses, particularly in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses. Students also have more options to choose from when it comes to extracurricular activities, since larger high schools have a wider variety of school clubs and activities that appeal to a wide spectrum of students. International students may have more options to be a part of something that better fits their interests at a larger school.  

Larger high schools also tend have more diversity within their student bodies. This maybe more comforting to international students, being surrounded by a varied representation of ethnicities and races, opposed to a more monolithic student body. Being amongst a diverse group of students is extremely beneficial for high school students, exposing them to different backgrounds and cultures.

Larger high schools can be well known within a town or community or more competitive on a state or national level.

What about medium-sized schools?

US high school

Medium-sized schools can be the best of both worlds. It is perfect for students who wish to have diversity within their student population and more options for curriculum and extracurricular activities. The student can still succeed in sports and other extracurricular activities at a medium-sized school as opposed to a larger school where competition, particularly in sports, is much higher.

Let’s take a look at Amerigo schools.

As you can see below, Amerigo’s schools differ in size, with our smallest school, St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School with 260 students and our largest school, Carmel Catholic High School with 1100 students.

US high school

It is important for international students to look at these numbers to gain a sense if they prefer a small, medium, or large-sized school.

School size does not determine the overall success of a school, but it can be a contributing factor to the success of a student. The school size can help narrow down a challenging search for international students and their parents. Take a virtual tour around the Amerigo campuses and schedule an appointment with an Amerigo Global Manager to see which campus fits you best!