A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy? - Albert Einstein
How colleges operate and what they offer can vary from country to country. Despite these variations, the primary goal of attending a college or university is to receive an education in order to pursue a career. More companies and organizations require employees to have college degrees today than they did in the past. Higher education is greatly valued today and is the key to opening doors of opportunity.
The high cost of a college education discourages many people from attending, but there are several reasons why one should go to a college. By going to college and earning a degree, one can receive a higher salary. College also allows people to find their passions and determine which career paths to take. To really take advantage of the college experience, prospective students must choose the right school. Some people know the exact path to take in life and choose the college accordingly. Others are more flexible in choosing a college because they are unsure of their career plans.
The term "college" is loosely used in reference to any type of post-secondary education. Formally speaking, colleges and universities differ in various ways. Colleges are identified in terms of the degrees they offer and the length of time in which a student completes his education.
Most colleges are undergraduate institutions, such as two-year junior or community colleges. A liberal arts college is an example of a four-year college. Colleges lead students to either an associate's degree, Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science degree (BS). A college can also be an educational unit within the university such as a College of Arts and Sciences, College of Architecture or College of Engineering.
A university, on the other hand, is a post-secondary institution that focuses on both undergraduate and graduate programs. A university is also a research-oriented institution and often the center of national and international research in many parts of the world. Undergraduate programs lead students to completing bachelor's degrees while graduate programs lead students to obtaining Master's degrees and doctorates. Universities have larger student bodies and an extensive range of academic disciplines.
In the United States, colleges and universities are broken down to community colleges, state colleges and universities. Community colleges are typically two-year colleges that offer continuing education programs that lead to associate’s degrees. The primary focus of a community college is the transfer program. Students who go to community colleges want to save money on school and transfer to four-year state colleges or universities.
State colleges are four-year institutions that grant degrees and are ranked in between community colleges and universities. They are also less expensive than universities and offer both undergraduate and graduate programs. Universities, again, are research-based four-year institutions and are generally more difficult to get admitted into. There are also Ivy League colleges such as Harvard and Yale which are most commonly known to be top tier universities.
Aside from these general terms, colleges and universities can be broken down into private and public institutions, vocational schools, technical institutes, law schools, med schools as well as art colleges. Specialized schools, such as those mentioned, offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees with a strong emphasis on one area. There are also vocational schools which teach the skills needed to perform a specific job. Vocational schools do not focus on a liberal arts education.
Choosing to go to one college over the other depends on the student's needs and financial circumstances. Students have the opportunity to apply for financial aid in the form of grants, loans and scholarships to help fund their education. Many students coming out of high school often receive full-scholarships to attend a university, which then becomes a deciding factor. Aside from finances, students choose schools based on degrees offered, disciplines offered, size, student culture, research, geographic location and faculty.