Different types of colleges suit different people so take a look at these descriptions to help you decide what type of college is right for you.  

First of all, what is the difference between a college and a university?


  • Colleges tend to have fewer students, with smaller class sizes and students receiving more personal attention from faculty.
  • Universities tend to be larger, with faculty time and attention divided between research and teaching. 


  • College faculty put their emphasis on teaching and courses are usually taught by professors.
  • A university maintains research requirements for instructors so they are often more research focused institutions. 


  • As a general rule, colleges offer undergraduate programs, usually of a four-year duration, that lead to a bachelor's degree in the arts or sciences (B.A. or B.S.).     
  • A university usually offers undergraduate colleges (or schools) leading to a bachelor's degree; graduate school of arts and sciences awarding master's degrees and doctorates (Ph.D.s); and graduate professional schools.

Both colleges and universities can be either privately or publicly operated. The differences mainly come down to:


  • Private colleges rely on tuition, fees, endowments, and other private sources but often offer more financial aid to students. If you’re leaning towards a private school, don’t rule it out until you’ve applied for financial aid.
  • Public colleges are usually less expensive, particularly for in-state residents because they get most of their money from the state or local government (check out your state's guide to residency through your guidance office).

Student Body  

  • Private colleges are usually smaller and can offer more personalized attention (and some believe, more prestige). 
  • Public universities and colleges generally offer a larger student body, many majors and a wide range of reputations. Some are well known for their academic programs, others for their sports programs.

Private colleges also offer unique programs you may want to consider. 

  • Liberal Arts Colleges
    Liberal arts colleges offer a broad base of courses in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Most are private and focus mainly on undergraduate students. Classes tend to be smaller and offer personal attention
  • Special Interest Colleges
    Some private colleges are affiliated with a religious faith, which may be historic only or may be integral to student life. There are single-sex colleges which offer men or women the chance to study without the distraction of the opposite sex. There are also colleges geared to minorities, offering a unique opportunity to experience an educational community in which they're part of the majority.  

All too overwhelming?  College is a big step and many graduating seniors don't feel ready to make that leap right away. If you're not ready to leave home, have financial concerns or feel a traditional four-year institution may not be in your plans, then perhaps you should consider a two-year college.  Options include:

  • Community or Junior Colleges
    Community colleges offer a degree after the completion of two years of full-time study. They frequently offer technical programs that prepare you for immediate entry into the job market.  These institutions also offer an inexpensive means to get lower-level coursework underway and then transfer to a four-year college or university in your major.
  • Vocational and Specialized Colleges
    Specialized colleges emphasize preparation for specific careers and are a good path for those who have already made a career decision. Examples include Art/music, Bible, Health Science, Seminary/rabbinica and Teaching.
  • Institutes
    An institute usually specializes in degree programs in a group of closely related subject areas, so you will also come across degree programs offered at institutes of technology, fashion, art and design....

The Bottom Line

What's right for you depends on your situation and goals.  Take the time to determine what you want and what you’re ready for so that you can then use that to determine what type of college is right for you.