You can set the Finder window size, position and view type (column, icon, list) by opening the Finder window, setting the attributes the way you want, then closing the window.
This must be done for each Finder window that you want, though -- if you set the "Applications" folder to open a certain way via the above process, it won't apply to any other folders... each one must be done individually, AFAIK.
When I get to my Mac today I will have to try this. My Applications folder ALWAYS comes up with 3 columns of icons; but there is enough space that if I barely make the window bigger; boom 4 columns of icons. That's always driven me nuts