The Difference between Colleges & Universities
Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are important differences between colleges and universities.
Understanding these differences will help you decide what kind of school is right for you
Liberal Arts Colleges.
are schools that offer a four-year undergraduate degree—either a BA (Bachelor of
Arts) or a BS (Bachelor of Science). They concentrate exclusively on undergraduate, or first degree, students and do not offer graduate studies. As a
result, they usually have smaller student bodies than universities do and they often offer a greater degree of personal attention from faculty,
advisors, and administrators.
Many colleges can be classified as
These are institutions that offer majors in many
subjects, but emphasize a broad general education first. Students typically spend the first two years completing a series of requirements in subjects
like history, science, philosophy, literature, and the arts. While students then choose a major area in which to focus, the emphasis remains on these
areas rather than on training for a profession. Most liberal arts colleges are private.
Students can also study at
sometimes called Junior Colleges. These are usually two-
year institutions that offer Associate degrees. They are designed to serve local populations of students, and they often attract those who wish to
study part-time, who want to receive training for a particular profession (such as a physician’s assistant or travel agent), those who are returning
to higher education after many years of work, and students who want to save money or improve their grades before transferring to a four-year
are larger institutions which grant graduate as well as undergraduate degrees.
Universities usually have liberal arts colleges that award BA and BS degrees. In addition, they offer advanced, post-graduate degrees (MAs, MFAs, and
PhDs) in the arts and sciences. Most universities also offer professional degrees in medicine, engineering, law, and business (MDs, JDs, MBAs,
Keep in mind that students can apply to schools in different categories.
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