Differences Between Various School & College Formats

When the time comes to begin planning for college, there is plenty of discussion about financial aid and and admissions applications. But the first step on your college career begins with deciding which college or university you want to attend. While there are fundamental commonalities among all institutes of higher education, there are also basic differences to be considered. Different colleges suit different student's needs. Your career choice, your major and your financial status will all impact your final decision. Let's take a moment to look at the various types of schools from which you will make your ultimate choice.


Universities have large campuses with equally large student bodies. They typically house colleges devoted to different disciplines, and offer a full spectrum of majors and departments of study. Major universities offer more opportunities to study in depth, and often give students access to larger and better funded research facilities, labs and libraries. Campus life is fast paced, and students are expected to be able to keep up in the hectic, and often intensive, environment. Larger class sizes mean that students receive less one on one instruction, and the successful university student is the one who can manage their own time and keep to a strict independent study routine.

Larger national universities also carry a certain cache that comes with attendance. To have graduated from a prestigious university, in whatever field, adds a level of gravitas to any future resume.

types of colleges

Community Colleges

Community colleges can be viewed as a complete educational institution, or as a stepping stone to a larger university. Students attending a community college, can enter a degree program and graduate within two years with an accredited Associate's degree or certification that will prepare them for immediate entry into the job market. This educational path is typically used by students who are pursuing a specific course of studies with the intention of fast tracking into a career.

Community colleges also provide a vital stepping stone for those students who are financial cash strapped, or are still undecided about their ultimate choice of career. For these students the community college provides an excellent opportunity to finish the first two years of a four year education, while saving money on tuition costs and deciding on an ultimate field of study. Following graduation from a community college students can proceed to university, complete their four year program of studies, and receive their Bachelors degree.

Technical and Vocational Schools

Technical schools, also referred to as Vocational schools, are designed for those students who know their career path and are in need of specific training to make it happen. For example, if you have decided you want a career working in the electronics field, and need training and education to prepare you for the workplace, a technical school will be the answer. Technical and vocational schools provide instruction in many different fields including nursing, computer technology, automotive repair, carpentry and more. Attending a technical school will give you hands on training in the career of your choice, and you will receive professional certification confirming your knowledge and expertise in your chosen field. For students eager to join the workforce and begin their careers, a vocational or technical school is often the perfect solution.

Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts colleges are usually smaller than their university counterparts, and offer smaller campuses and more individual instruction. Typically private schools, the emphasis at a liberal arts college is on a well rounded classical education. The specializations that can be found at larger universities are generally not available at smaller liberal arts colleges. These colleges offer students greater interaction with the faculty, greater access to one on one instruction and a more leisurely campus lifestyle. Students studying literature, the arts, and the soft sciences will find a liberal arts college experience to be the most rewarding.

Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of colleges you will be choosing from, you are in a better position to assess which school is right for you. Choosing the college or technical school that best suits your career goals and life ambitions puts you firmly on the way to a successful and rewarding educational future.