College vs University: Differences to Know Before You Apply.
In the United States, the word “college” is a catch-all term for all types of higher education. There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the US. Most college students themselves don’t know the difference between a college and a university. The common misconception is that all universities are public and all colleges are private. Before you decide to apply, learn what separates the two institutions of learning.
What Is a College?
Colleges generally have smaller and more narrow education programs. They focus on undergraduate studies. Two-year community and junior colleges offer Associate’s degrees. They prioritize vocational training and job placement over higher learning in general. A four-year college offers Bachelor’s degrees. Colleges often serve as feeder schools. They enable their graduates to move on to specific programs or universities. Some colleges in the US offer graduate courses. It means that you can get a Master’s degree there.
Colleges tend to limit their enrollment and have smaller faculty and student body, leading to smaller class sizes. In general, they favor teaching over research, though some American colleges are famous for their research programs.
A college syllabus skews toward applied academics. Visa versa, universities use a broad approach to education that includes abstract and theoretical subjects. Many colleges are heavily specialized. They provide fewer program offerings. Examples include visual arts colleges, military academies, or colleges that teach a “Great Books” curriculum devoted to the Western Canon of literature. College students often enjoy a more personalized approach from their teachers.
Historically, most American colleges have been private. Some colleges have religious affiliations and provide theological training. A few schools in the US continue to be called colleges, though they have grown into universities over the years. In some cases, the name stuck because of tradition. Sometimes a college can not change its name because a university with the same label already exists.
What Is a University?
While any university is also a college by definition, they are much larger schools that offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. You can study for a Master’s degree or a Ph.D. there. Sometimes universities offer accelerated or fast-track courses. They allow earning both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree faster than traditional programs.
Because universities offer so many different courses and programs, they attract a large and diverse student body.
Universities often branch into smaller schools called colleges or academic departments that prioritize narrow fields of study and research, like law, medicine or engineering.
Universities are research-focused. Faculty and graduate students are engaged in research projects sometimes at the expense of undergraduate teaching. But it is a perfect environment for self-starting undergrads. They can get involved in projects and get more hands-on learning partnering with graduate students. Universities also tend to attract the best researchers and world-renown academics, which leads to better faculty.
Many universities receive public financing, though there are quite a few large famous private universities.
High School vs College: Know what to Expect.
You might decide to go to a smaller college for a personalized learning experience and an in-demand degree in the job market. Or maybe your life goals include getting a graduate degree, and you are attracted to the idea of learning under the best academics in your chosen field.
In any case, you should prepare yourself for the demands of secondary education.
Be ready to have more freedom but more responsibility for your choices.
You will have to choose your classes, and they will be more challenging.
You will get fewer grades, and tests will have greater weight.
Assignments will be longer, less frequent, and more demanding.
Unlike school, parental involvement will be minimal.
You will have more opportunities for socializing and engaging in different sports, clubs, and other activities.
If you struggle with studies, approach instructors yourself.
Prepare to read a lot outside of class and seek out additional information.
Compile a list of colleges and universities that might interest you. Learn more about each of them before making a decision. Understand what kind of learning environment works best for you. Choose your school and your degree wisely because getting a college education is very expensive in the US!