Four-Year Colleges and
Institutions of higher learning that grant a
bachelor's degree after (approximately) four years of study. At most of the
colleges in the United States, you can earn either a baccalaureate or a
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree.
Liberal Arts Colleges
Offer B.A. and B.S. degree programs that combine a
broad cultural education through four years of study covering the arts,
sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Each student is required to fulfill
general requirement classes and would concentrate on a major field of study
such as political science, literature, education, etc. Liberal Arts Colleges
may be public, private or Christian and admissions policies may be open to
Offer bachelor's degree programs that focus more
on preparation for a specific career such as art, music, engineering, etc.
Less emphasis is placed on the broad liberal arts education. These schools
generally have a selective, competitive admissions
Offer four-year (bachelor's) degrees as well as
some two-year (associate's) degrees. They include a liberal arts college plus
specialized colleges such as education or business. Each college may have
entrance requirements in addition to those for admission to the university.
Check the admission standards of the individual college offering the program
you want, as well as, the general admission requirements. For example, if you
want to major in Nursing, the school of Nursing may have additional (or
different) requirements for admission than the universities general admission
policies. Universities may offer graduate programs leading to a master's,
doctorate, or a professional degree. There are state univeristies and
independent / private colleges and universities.
Class sizes may be larger - particularly in general requirement, core
courses. Tuition rates are generally less expensive than private
colleges/universities. Scholarships, grants, aid, etc. are available. However,
if you choose an out-of-state (different than the state in which you reside)
public university, the tuition may compare to a private school. Larger
schools, in particular, offer lots of activities, sports, clubs,
organizations, etc. The population is usually diverse.
Independent/Private Colleges and Universities
May offer fewer academic choices. Class sizes are usually smaller which can
mean more interaction with the professor. Tuition is typically higher. There may
be more possibilities for scholarships, grants, aid, etc. After scholarships,
grants, aid, etc. tuition may be comparable to the public university. Smaller
campuses can make it easier to get to know students and have more
opportunities to get involved.
Advantages to Four-Year Colleges and
More areas of study will likely be offered at these institutions. These areas
of study will offer a greater choice of possible majors
The facilities at colleges and universities, from libraries to laboratories,
generally will be more extensive and will offer a better opportunity for
research, internships, etc.
Usually, more activities are available at these institutions. From sports
programs to special interest organizations. Most students find a greater
chance to participate in social activities at colleges and universities.
Community and Junior Colleges
Generally part of a state college system. They provide classes to meet the
needs of a diverse group of students - from those taking a single course for
career advancement to students beginning study for a four-year degree. Offer
smaller classes; can obtain job training as well. Tuition is usually less than
state universities. Usually commuter colleges because most do not have dorms.
Often independent, church-related schools. Offer associate degrees in arts and
sciences that can be transferred to a four-year college. Make sure they are
accredited colleges or your credits may not transfer to a four-year college.
Types of Programs offered at Community and
Associate in Applied Science - degrees
are terminal, or not transferable, and are meant to lead directly to
employment in fields such as real estate, some nursing fields, etc.
Associate of Arts (A.A.) and
Associate of Science (A.S.) - degrees
provide the first two years of a four-year college degree and are intended for
transfer to a four-year college or university. Check with the four-year
college you plan to attend to be sure that your program will transfer.
Certificate Programs - sometimes
called career-oriented programs, are for students who want to seek employment
after six months to two years of post-secondary education/training. You need
to ask careful questions from the beginning in order to avoid the frustration
of taking courses that won't fit your goal.
NOTE: if you plan to transfer, check with your
four-year college about their departmental entrance requirements before
planning your classes. Get in writing what classes and grades will
transfer. A guide to planning community college classes to fit with specific
majors at a four-year college or university is very helpful. If you have a
transferring four-year college in mind, ask if that college has such a
Advantages of Community and Junior Colleges
Economy - Tuition and fees are typically one-half
or less of the tuition of four-year colleges. You can also save on room and
board by living at home. Usually, you can combine classes with working.
Open admission Policy - any high school graduate
or holder of a GED certificate is eligible to enroll. If your high school
grades or ACT/SAT scores are not high enough for admittance to a four-year
college or university, a community college is a chance to get started in
college. Community college grades will be looked at as you apply for admission
to a four-year college as a transfer student.
Program offerings are often tailored to
meet the needs of local business and industry. For those interested in
studying a career-related program where you will be ready for employment in
the labor market in two years or less after high school. Classes are typically
taught by people who are or have worked in the particular career or
profession. Tuition costs vary. Like community colleges, vocation/technical
colleges usually do not have dorms.
How Do I Make the Right College
Academic Program - How strong is the school in your major? Become an
expert on your major and determine if the school has what you are looking for.
Curriculum - How much depth and diversity is there? Remember the
majority of students change their major so, you may want to choose a school
with several good programs.
Size and Type - How large of a school do you want to attend? Do you
want a public, private, liberal arts, technical school, etc.?
Location/Setting - Do you want a small town or a big city? Do you want
a commuter school, or a large on-campus population?
Student Body - Do you seem to fit well with these students? Are they
mainly conservative, liberal, etc.?
Resources/Faculty - What types of educational resources are there and
how available are they? How talented and accessible are the faculty members?
Who are students taught by: professors or teacher's assistants?
Extracurricular Life - What is there to do outside of class? What
extracurricular activities are available? Intramurals? Clubs and Organizations?
Living Accommodations - Where do most of the students live - on or off
campus? What are the dorms like - male, female, co-ed? What are the safety
measures for the resident halls?
Tips for Admission
Apply to 3 - 6 schools. This keeps your options open and may also give you a
bargaining tool if discussing scholarships.
Don't rule out a school because of finances until you have heard the final
decision on all scholarships and financial aid. A more expensive school may
end up costing you less once all the figures are in.
Don't be late! Make sure to meet all of the deadlines!
Keep all correspondence from every school of interest and keep it organized.
Also, make copies of everything you send to the schools.
Get to know a college representative at your schools of interest. You need a
contact person on campus.
Talk to your parents - ultimately, college choice is a family decision.
**Some info taken from NextSTEPmag