Table of Contents
- Difference between college and university | An overview
- What is a university?
- Pros and cons of studying at a university
- What is a college?
- Pros and cons of studying at a college
- Do they mean different things in different countries?
- So, which one should you choose?
Difference between college and university | An overview
The words college and university are used interchangeably in the US. However, these words have stringent definitions in countries like Canada, Australia, and the UK. If you plan to study abroad, it is quintessential for you to know what these words mean. To help you get there, we have listed the difference between college and university, with a few essential pros and cons to help you decide what to choose. Let’s dive in!
What is a university?
A university is an institution that has both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Sometimes, universities also allow students to take up a joint degree, through which they can pursue a master’s or a Ph.D. after graduation.
The primary difference is that universities have diverse classes and programs compared to colleges. As a result, the student population at a university is also higher. And more often than not, universities are actually made up of smaller divisions (or faculties) called colleges. This is usually the case in most US universities and all the institutions in the UK.
Pros and cons of studying at a university
- There is more access to advanced degrees and more interaction with graduate students.
- Professors are more likely to be highly reputable figures in their fields of research.
- Lots of research opportunities and facilities are available to students.
- There are more program offerings overall and a more diverse community of students.
- Universities may offer less personalized attention from professors and advisors.
- Students have to compete with graduates for research opportunities.
- The total costs of attending a four-year university are steep.
- It’s difficult for students to register for a course before it fills up.
What is a college?
More often than not, a college is an institution that focuses more on undergraduate education. However, there are quite a few exceptions you will see. For example, some colleges, known as liberal arts colleges, don’t just focus on subjects like arts and humanities but also teach courses in science, business, law, and education, like The College of William and Mary, Dartmouth College, and St. Joseph’s College.
Then, there are community colleges, where students can begin their education early before transferring to a four-year college or university to complete their degree.
The usual trend for colleges is this – they tend to focus on specific fields and don’t necessarily provide broad offerings. And that means that they usually have small class sizes.
Pros and cons of studying at a college
- You will likely get more personalized attention from professors and academic advisors.
- There is often a greater focus on undergraduate teaching.
- Colleges often have more curriculum specialization for students with specific interests.
- Most colleges have a closer, more unified student community.
- At community colleges, tuition costs a fraction of a four-year university, making them much more affordable options.
- Students at two-year colleges have more time to consider degree options as they complete their general education requirements.
- There are usually fewer resources and facilities for conducting research.
- Faculty at colleges are less likely to be leading researchers in their fields.
- Colleges don’t offer direct access to more advanced degrees.
- Most colleges will have fewer overall program offerings.
- Small community colleges often struggle with a lack of diversity and issues related to student engagement in the classroom.
- Small, private liberal arts colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees tend to offer less financial aid.
Do they mean different things in different countries?
Yes, the definitions given above are usually true for institutions in the US. But when it comes to other destinations, the difference between college and university changes-
In the United Kingdom, colleges are schools founded by a university, and they do not award degrees.
In Canada, the term college usually refers to vocational, artistic, technical & scientific third level of education. Consequently, a college is not recognized as completely independent in the same way as a university.
Here, ‘college’ means secondary education. The term is not commonly used for specific vocational schools or schools inside a university.
So, which one should you choose?
Now that the difference between college and university is clear, there are a few factors that you can consider while shortlisting institutions. These include –
- Program availability
- Profile requirements
- Course fee
- Research opportunities
- Job opportunities
Once you’ve figured out which institutes you like fulfill all your requirements, you can create your shortlist, categorize the universities and colleges into Dream, Reach, and Safe categories, and start applying! If you get stuck or need help, feel free to drop a comment or reach out.
Liked this blog? Then read the blog on the Top 10 oldest universities in the world!
Question 1: What are the benefits of joining a college?
Answer: There are several benefits of joining a college, such as getting closer and unified student community, more curriculum specializations, and much more.
Question 2: What factors to consider while choosing between a college and a university?
Answer: A few factors you must consider are program availability, fees, research opportunities, and placement rates.
Question 3: What is the meaning of college in Australia?
Answer: In Australia, the term college refers to secondary education, not specified to vocational schools or schools inside a university.