There are several different types of colleges and universities. Their classification is determined by the level of degrees offered, and how they are funded. The classifications are: two-year, four-year, public, private, non-profit, and for-profit.
Two-year institutions are known as community colleges and sometimes junior colleges. These schools can only offer certificates and associate’s degrees. If a student wishes to complete a four-year degree then the student must eventually transfer to a four-year college or university.
Four-year colleges are schools that do not offer graduate programs. They focus on educating students who are seeking their first degree. Four-year universities offer graduate programs. Both types of institutions are where you will earn a bachelor’s degree and become fully “college educated.”
The differences between public and private schools is primarily about who funds the school. Public schools receive monies from the state, and this is often in the form of tax subsidies. Public schools can be both two-year and four-year colleges or universities. Since public schools receive public monies they offer two different tuition rates: in-state and out-of-state. Students who are classified as in-state receive a lower tuition rate than those who are out-of-state. However, it may be worth applying to an out-of-state school because that school may be willing to grant you funding.
Private schools have one tuition rate, and are often maintained by private donations.
The difference between non-profit and for-profit is typically admission criteria. Non-profit schools are usually competitive and require Scholastic Aptitude Testing (SAT). You are also ranked based on your grade point average and recommendations. However, there are some state non-profit schools that operate like for-profits.
Most for-profit institutions have open enrollment, and accept any student who can demonstrate that they have earned a high-school diploma, or have earned a bachelor’s degree (for those seeking a graduate degree). Occasionally, they may also ask for a recommendation from a teacher or supervisor.
Choosing between these types of colleges depends on your career goals and academic preparation. The stronger you have performed in categories such as English, mathematics, and science the higher your chances of being accepted into a competitive school and doing well while there. It is also important to consider whether or not you will need to work as that will determine what time you may take courses. Many community colleges offer day and evening courses, while many four-year schools primarily offer courses during the day. While it may be frightening to take on student loan debt of any kind, accepting a reasonable amount may allow you to focus on your studies and finish your degree with stronger grades in a timely manner.
When selecting an institution there are several questions you must ask yourself. Important things to consider include:
How accessible is the faculty?
If you want to go to graduate school faculty recommendations are important. You will want to ask how well you can develop relationships with faculty members.
How many students graduate from the institution?
What types of jobs or careers do graduates pursue?
Does the school organize alumni activities, and how large is the alumni network?
What format are classes offered in? Am I comfortable with that format?
Some schools offer classes on a campus, some offer them online, and others offer a combination of the two. Determine which option works best for you and factor this heavily in your decision to apply to a particular school.
Does this school have the major I intend to pursue?
Choosing a major can begin as early as one’s first semester. Having a bit of an idea of what type of career you may want to pursue may help you choose classes that will steer you in that direction, but also, and more importantly, help you avoid a school that does not cater to your interests at all.
Finally, is this school a good fit? Challenge yourself to the best of your ability, but also be aware of your level of academic preparation. Many schools have programs that help first-generation college students adjust to college life, and what it means to become college educated, but many others do not. Obtaining a degree is part preparation, part stamina, and part adjustment for those who are advancing beyond their parent’s education and it is important to ask admissions counselors how the school will fit your needs.