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The 10 Biggest Colleges in the Country & What It’s Like to Go There

Schools come in all shapes and sizes… and some are HUGE! Read on for the 10 biggest colleges in America, by 2010-2011 undergraduate and graduate combined enrollments, according to the U.S. Department of Education, and a peek into what life is like on such a large campus.

1. Arizona State University—Tempe, Arizona: 58,371 students

Arizona State University has four campuses, but the Tempe location has the largest enrollment with over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Tempe is in metropolitan Phoenix, so you’ll have the experiences of both going to a large university and going to college in an urban city, so if you’re a small-town girl, ASU will definitely help you come out of your shell!

ASU is known for its football team, the Sun Devils, but their academic renown in engineering and nursing programs attracts scholars from all over the globe in addition to athletes on their way to the professional level. Arizona State boasts more than 13,300 out-of-state and international students, and has a freshman retention rate of over 80 percent, which is significantly higher than most undergraduate institutions. It’s been ranked as one of the Top 100 world universities by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, and has top programs in a variety of concentrations. Its Tillman Center also offers one of the best support facilities for student veterans.

In a promotional video on ASU’s website, Maisoon, a biochemistry major, says that Arizona State offers “such a unique energy” because her classes and extracurricular activities allow her to meet students from every part of the world and expand her own world view as well as theirs. Other students in the video agree – even though the student population is so large, the student body works together as a whole, which makes a large campus less intimidating.

2. University of Central Florida—Orlando, Florida: 56,235 students

Founded as a technical school, UCF now offers liberal arts concentrations in addition to their technical and professional programs. They’re recognized for engineering and computer science, business and management and education, but they offer 91 majors, so this is a great place to come if you’re undecided about your future career direction.

On HC’s Pre-Collegiette page, students say they love the campus because there are so many opportunities available. One student says she “chose UCF because the school is well-rounded and diverse. College is about branching out and meeting new people and UCF gives you all the means to do this.”

Others say they love the classic campus feel that UCF provides, with trees and brick buildings, not to mention great weather. One student calls the student towers “the best dorms ever!” Some HC girls chose UCF for the hospitality and business program, or because it’s close to Disney World and Universal Studios, but others just love being in an urban area. Whatever the reason, with over 50,000 students, UCF is clearly a great place to be!

3. Ohio State University—Columbus, Ohio: 56,064 students

This fall, Ohio State’s enrollment was the largest it’s ever been – out-of-state and international students are well represented, and diversity is at an all-time high. Ohio State is well recognized for their professional schools, especially business and accounting (not to mention their amazing football team!).

Taylor Evans, an Ohio State student and HC Campus Correspondent, loves going to Ohio State because the large-university atmosphere allows her to join student organizations that she wouldn’t have access to at a smaller school. “Going to a big college has given me a chance to join different groups apart of things I haven’t been a part of before.  OSU is great because it really has a small-town feel. Although there are upwards of 15,000 undergraduate students, I feel like a go to a much smaller college,” Taylor says.

4. University of Minnesota—Minneapolis, Minnesota: 51,721 students

UMN is one of the largest and most academically rigorous research universities in the country. Their liberal arts college, school of education and business school all have about equal enrollment sizes, so they’re not specific to one field. If you’re looking for a variety of options, UMN is a great school to consider!

Edwina Reckel, a student and HC Campus Correspondent at the University of Minnesota, loves going to school in a metropolitan location. “The U of M is great because we are located right in between two large cities: Minneapolis and St. Paul,” Edwina says. “Going to a school in an urban area gives me access to internships with well-known companies and gain real world experience. It’s great to network with people who are at the top of their field with Fortune 500 companies and corporations based right here, such as Target, Land O Lakes, 3M, General Mills, and more. On top of that, campus is a vibrant community with great student sections atmospheres at hockey, basketball, and football games. The U is a great place to find your passion, gain career skills, and have fun!”

5. University of Texas at Austin—Austin, Texas: 51,195 students

With seven museums and seventeen libraries, UT-Austin is one of the biggest names in public research universities. UT was also named “America’s Best Sports College” by Sports Illustrated magazine in 2002. They’ve won four NCAA Division I championships, and all of their men’s and women’s sports are top-notch. If sports aren’t your deal, they have 18 schools within the university and tons of research grants, so you’ll be able to get a quality education at a public-school price.

Bernice Chuang, UT student and HC Campus Correspondent, says going to a big school is the best of both worlds, academic and social. “I really enjoy UT because not only is it in Austin, but UT also provides its students with a wealth of resources and opportunities to network since there are about 50,000 people on campus,” she says. “I guess I’m not too sure how different it is to be at a smaller university compared to ours, but I do know that there is always something happening on campus- you’ll never be bored!” Bernice says she is always proud of UT for ranking high in several aspects, including the McCombs Business School, the College of Education, football and parties.

6. University of Florida—Gainesville, Florida: 49,827 students

UF receives the highest academic record of all colleges and universities in Florida, and who doesn’t want to go to college in the Sunshine State? With 118 majors and 19 academic schools, the academic possibilities at UF are endless.

Many HC girls chose UF because it’s known for its journalism program, but as a public school, its overall academic ratings are top-notch too. As one enthusiastic student said on HC’s UF pre-collegiette page, “I would encourage everyone to get involved because that’s the best way to make this huge school feel so small and personable. I spent all last summer working as an orientation leader because I love the University of Florida so much and I am so happy to be a Gator!”

Allison Banko, University of Florida student and HC Campus Correspondent, also loves the social opportunities that come with going to a large school. “Because we are such a big school, it’s well known not only around the state, but around the nation as well,” Allison says. “Thanks to that credibility, we’re able to bring in awesome speakers and performers to the area. Just last week we had Shaq come! This week, we’re having the Goo Goo Dolls, Joel McHale and Sister Hazel perform. It’s amazing!”

According to Allison, large schools offer unbeatable networking and professional opportunities, too. “Our school has a saying: ‘The Gator Nation is Everywhere.’ Because we have so many students, and thus, alumni, there are a lot of Gators out there in the business world,” Allison says. “The networking and connection opportunities students have gotten from being Gators are incredible. I’ve heard of a lot of instances during job interviews of the potential employee and interviewer finding out they are both Gators and doing the Gator Chomp together. I think that’s a special connection that you may not be able to come across as much from a smaller school.”

7. Texas A & M University—College Station, Texas: 49,129 students

Texas A & M ranks among America’s top 20 research institutions. The A & M historically stand for “Agricultural and Mechanical,” but the university offers a plethora of fields today. Some of their most popular majors include standard options like accounting, sales, English and psychology, but the university also offers unique options like speech and rhetoric, animal science and health and physical education, so it’s a great school to consider for specialized programs.

Texas A & M also has over 800 student organizations, so you’re bound to find your niche even on a campus this big! Texas A & M has nine academic colleges and all of the standard pre-professional programs, so it’s a great school to consider if you see graduate or professional school in your future.

8. University of South Florida—Tampa, Florida: 47,576 students

As this list shows, college students love earning their degrees in Florida! A member of the State University System of Florida, USF is one of the nation’s top 63 public research universities, and the Princeton Review has named USF one of the top 366 colleges and universities in America. Division I athletics round out the school, so whether you’re into research or football, USF is a great choice!

Lynnette Wetherington, USF student and HC Campus Correspondent, loves going to USF because big schools have diverse student populations. “With the University of South Florida being as diverse as it is, I feel that my peers and I have the opportunity to meet many different kinds of people from various cultures with great individualism without having to travel the world,” Lynnette says. “I truly enjoy being a part of a large campus full of opportunities.” If you want to expand your circles or comfort zones, big schools are a great place to start!

9. Michigan State University—East Lansing, Michigan: 47,131 students

Besides research grants and NCAA sports, Michigan State offers the most study abroad programs of any university in the U.S., with over 200 programs in more than 60 countries. MSU is best known for its hospitality school, but it has tons of different programs, so don’t worry if you’re undecided. The most popular majors at Michigan State are business and journalism, but over half of the student body studies other subjects.

Lauren Knoll, the HC Michigan State Campus Correspondent, loves MSU because it’s a big campus. “I actually love going to Michigan State because it is such a large university,” she says.  “I grew up with two parents who met at MSU, so being around campus since I was a little girl helped me tremendously when I came here in the end.  I think because our university is so large and we have such a large alumni population that students are able to benefit from alumni connections.” 

Lauren also enjoys the rich academic opportunities that large campuses offer. “As a journalism major,” she says, “I feel lucky that MSU is so large because we have one of the top three journalism schools in the country, which has a lot to do with our resources, faculty and past alumni helping our school grow.  It doesn’t hurt that having so many students on campus means we have a large social scene either!”

10. Pennsylvania State University—University Park, Pennsylvania: 44,817 students

Penn State has one of the most well recognized journalism programs in the country, so aspiring editors, take note! Penn State is a public research university with 19 campuses, and if you aren’t accepted to the main campus your first year of college you can apply to spend your last two years there. They offer over 160 majors, so you’re sure to find a field you love. Frank DeMaria, a financial analyst at Computer Sciences Corporation and Penn State alumni, went to Penn State to study one field, but was able to switch and still graduate on time because the advising program and academic departments at PSU were so helpful.

One of Frank’s greatest Penn State memories is with their Dance Marathon program, which is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world and has raised over $78 million since its start. The marathon raises money for Hershey Children’s Hospital, and students pledge to dance for 48 hours straight. An event this large is only possible at a big university! PSU also has a creamery on campus – what more could a collegiette ask for? Fun trivia: Ben and Jerry learned to make ice cream at this very creamery!

Meghan is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying classics and English. She has interned at Girls' Life and Parenting magazines and was a Collegiate Correspondent with USA TODAY in Spring 2012. Meghan loves all things entertainment related and plans to move to New York and work for a national magazine after graduating in May 2013.