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When googling higher education institutes in the US, you might ask yourself whether you want to go to a “college” or a “university” because your search results will show both these terms. Well, this quick read will clear up the confusion for you. The two terms are often used interchangeably in the US so let’s understand the differences between the two words. You wouldn’t want to overlook institutions and miss out on great opportunities because you chose to look at only one of these terms.
While both institution types offer undergraduate education, you should know what both of them are to decide which type of education to pursue. So, let’s look at the key differences between colleges and universities in the US.
Universities are public or private institutions that offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Paired with their lively and diverse environments, these institutions usually have spacious campuses and a variety of program offerings.
While applying to US universities, you must note if they are public or private. This is because public universities commonly enroll tens of thousands of students, and private universities are typically smaller and more selective. For instance, Texas A&M University — a large public institution — enrolls over 70,000 students, whereas Princeton University — a highly regarded Ivy League school — serves just 8,000 students.
Universities are also great places for students interested in research, as they have an impressive array of facilities and labs to support these efforts. Many schools, like Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University, carry official research designations and spend billions of dollars annually on research and development.
Colleges often feature smaller student populations, more intimate campuses, and fewer program offerings than universities. These institutions are four-year schools offering small class sizes, low student-to-faculty ratios, and undergraduate-focused studies.
You will find different kinds of colleges that differ in their approach to education. For example, liberal arts colleges take a broad approach by emphasizing the importance of studying an array of academic subjects. By contrast, other colleges may include programs for one specific discipline, such as engineering, graphic design, or visual arts.
Some colleges are technically universities but use the term “college” because a university already exists with the same name. For example, while the College of Charleston includes the term “college” in its name, it’s technically a public liberal arts and sciences university.
College can also refer to community, vocational, and technical colleges. While a small number of these institutions offer bachelor’s degrees, most award only associate’s degrees and certificates.
The US education system works differently from what you are used to in India. A liberal arts education does not focus exclusively on the humanities. Though this discipline remains integral to the liberal arts curriculum, most liberal arts colleges offer degrees in several other fields, such as chemistry and music.
Also referred to as junior colleges, community colleges are two-year schools that primarily award associate degrees and certificates. They have affordable tuition, small class sizes, and more individualized classroom settings.
Many students choose to complete their general education requirements at a local community college before transferring to a four-year university to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Technical and vocational colleges — also known as trade schools — are two-year colleges that provide specialized training for specific career fields. These institutions are known for their intensive programs, smaller campuses, and lower tuition rates.
Trade schools focus entirely on developing skills and knowledge needed for a particular trade. Keep in mind that technical college graduates often receive associate degrees,
whereas vocational graduates primarily earn certificates.
As a prospective international student, you should keep your options open by applying to different types of institutions in the U.S. By researching and learning about your options, you can find the right fit for yourself. If an institution interests you or just sounds really exciting, even if it’s not what you had in mind, keep it in the mix and see where it goes!
To explore more options to study in the US, start a co-design conversation with GradstarDate Published: Jun-23-2022