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What Is the Difference Between College and University

Many people use the college and university terms interchangeably when speaking of higher education. However, these institutions actually offer different degrees, a fact future students should be aware of. The confusion may even cause students to make the wrong decision regarding their future specialization.

So, 5-Minute Crafts will help you figure out which institution to focus your attention on before becoming a freshman.

1. What’s a university?

Being larger institutions than colleges, universities usually feature larger student populations. However, this isn’t a general rule since small universities might enroll less than a thousand freshmen per year. As opposed to those, large universities tend to enlist tens of thousands of students.

Accordingly, most universities offer varied programs and graduate degrees, like Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. Moreover, they typically have larger campuses and classes than colleges. Finally, established professors familiar with dynamic learning teach students at these institutions.

The main types of universities in the USA are:

  • Public — state — universities typically receive state funding and could offer lower tuition to their students. Note, though, that lower fees usually apply to US residents and in-state students.
  • Private universities charge higher fees for education than public universities or colleges. Still, some of the world’s most renowned universities — like Yale, Harvard, and MIT — fall into this group.

2. What’s a college?

College is an academic institution featuring smaller student populations, campuses, and classes than university. As smaller institutions, colleges usually offer undergraduate degrees. They receive little to no state funding and have fewer program offerings than sizable higher education institutions.

Colleges don’t usually award graduate degrees like Ph.D. or Master’s. Thus, you can pursue certificates or associate degrees there.

3 types of colleges in the USA offer different types of studies and these are:

  1. Liberal arts colleges: Consider this college if you want to learn skills like organization or attention to detail, which can be used across a wide variety of jobs. These are known as transferable skills. Liberal arts colleges aren’t your best option if you want to become a highly specialized professional.
  2. Community colleges are 2-year schools known for affordable education costs. They usually have more individualized classroom settings, which cater to students’ personal needs, targeting one at a time.
  3. Technical and vocational colleges, also known as trade schools, offer a 2-year specialization for a particular trade. Technical colleges normally award associate degrees, while vocational graduates receive certificates.

3. Which higher education institution is right for you?

  • The biggest advantages of studying at university are that they offer a wide range of programs and courses that likely align with your skills and prospective career, there are many research opportunities, and there is more opportunity to connect with students and employees with various backgrounds on large and diverse campuses. The main downsides are tuition fees, which are on the high side if you aren’t a resident or an in-state student, course availability, as courses usually get filled up quickly, and the learning experience typically isn’t as personal due to the large number of students in attendance.
  • The biggest gains of studying at a college are obtaining a degree in as little as 2 years, more personal learning due to fewer students compared to universities, education costs are way lower than at universities, and you can transfer to a university to pursue a higher degree and save thousands of dollars along the way upon graduating. Key losses include the fact that they offer fewer courses compared to universities, liberal arts colleges might be pricier for studying than some large universities, and there are fewer resources available than at larger institutions.
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