differnce between college and university

College Vs. University: What’s The Difference?

What is the difference between college and university? This is a question that every student asks themselves countless times. 

Students are often confused about which one to go to when they finish high school and wish to apply for admission. 

In this article, we will take you through the meaning of college and university, their differences, and how to get into them.

First, let’s understand the two terms…

What Is A University?

A university is a higher education facility that grants both undergraduate and graduates degrees.

Because of that, most university campuses have a number of significant buildings within their systems. 

They typically have a number of schools, including the School of Arts, the School of Sciences, and others.

What Is A College?

Colleges tend to be smaller than universities and don’t offer as many degrees and programs as a university. 

The major difference is that they don’t offer graduate degrees but there are many exceptions to this rule. 

Many institutions that offer master’s programs decide to keep the word “college” in their names out of respect for their traditions and histories, 

Having said that, there are two major types of colleges.

1. Liberal arts colleges

Liberal arts colleges concentrate on the social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, and arts. 

They focus on the development of general intellectual abilities and a broad base of knowledge for their students.

Some examples include Williams College, Wellesley College, Bowdoin College, etc.

2. Community colleges

Community colleges offer certifications and associate’s degrees, serving as stepping stones to further education. 

The primary distinction between junior college and college is the duration of study rather than the types of degrees offered and your degree will normally take two years to complete at a community college. 

Many students use those credits as a stepping stone to finish a four-year college education by transferring them later.

Examples of community colleges include Santa Barbara City College, Northwood Technical College, Foothill College, Fox Valley Technical College, etc.

Related read: Bachelors Vs Masters Degree: The Ultimate Difference.

University or College Classroom

What Is The Difference Between College And University?

University refers to larger institutions offering both undergraduate and graduate programs while a college refers to community colleges, technical schools, and liberal arts colleges.

Let’s break down their differences in the table below.

A college is a type of educational setting that provides its students with courses leading to degrees and diplomas.A university is a recognized institution of higher learning and research that awards degrees and diplomas to its students in relevant subjects.
Colleges can be standalone organizations or they can be associated with universities.Universities do not need to be affiliated with other universities.
Colleges do not offer research programsUniversities offer research programs
Colleges offer a few coursesUniversities offer a wide range of courses
A college is headed by a dean or directorA university is headed by the vice-chancellor
Colleges have few students and small campusUniversities have a lot of students and a large campus
A table showing the difference between college and university

Note that if you wish to further your education or switch careers, attending college does not exclude you from later going to a university for a graduate degree. 

Also, employers won’t belittle your college degree if it demonstrates that you possess the talents and skills they are seeking. 

But you’ll need to pursue a postgraduate degree if you apply for a job that calls for more sophisticated skills.

Difference Between Harvard University And Harvard College

Harvard University Gate

Harvard University is made up of Harvard College and eight other institutions that provide graduate and professional degrees. 

Around 6,500 students are enrolled in a four-year bachelor’s degree program at Harvard University.

Even while the university and college operate independently, they are all still members of the same institution. 

They do not provide the same undergraduate programs and maintain distinct admissions offices, teaching and research faculties, and administrative staff.

Check out the Best medical universities in the world 2022.

Difference Between Columbia University And Columbia College

Outside view of Columbia university

Columbia College is a private liberal arts college in Missouri while the Ivy League institution, Columbia University is located in New York.

Difference Between Boston University And Boston College

Boston College still uses the word “college” even though it is a research institution, as a historical homage to its history in the liberal arts. 

Boston College is part of the Boston Consortium, a group of select colleges and universities (including Boston University).

While Boston College (BC) offers graduate degrees, the majority of the student body consists of undergraduates, while for Boston University (BU) the distribution stretches beyond undergraduates.

Boston University Campus Entrance

What Are The Best Universities To Study at?

Some of the best-ranked universities in the US include:

  1. Harvard University
  2. Princeton University
  3. California Institute of Technology
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  5. Yale University
  6. University of Chicago
  7. Stanford University
  8. Columbia University
  9. John Hopkins University

Find out more about the Best Universities In The World 2022.

What Are The Top Colleges To Study?

Below are the best colleges to study in the US. 

  1. Williams College
  2. Amherst College
  3. Swarthmore College
  4. Pomona College
  5. Wellesley College
  6. Bowdoin College
  7. Louisiana Tech College
  8. Moraine Park Technical College
  9. Santa Barbara City College
  10. Northwood Technical College
  11. Foothill College
  12. Fox Valley Technical College

Should I Study In A College Or University?

Both schools and universities can be an excellent fit, so your choice will rely on your future goals. 

A college is a fantastic option as long as it offers the academic program you desire and if you are interested in earning a bachelor’s degree and not considering graduate school.

It also applies if you’re interested in a vocational profession. For instance, attending college is the quickest route to becoming a nurse, and you’ll benefit from a more hands-on approach to learning.

Also, the university is a fantastic choice if you want to undertake serious research, become an expert in your subject, and get a Ph.D.

Related read: How Much Do College Professors Make?

What Should I Consider Before Choosing A College Or University?

Choosing a college or university can be difficult, especially if you don’t know the things to consider.

In light of that, we’ve listed the three things to consider before choosing either a college or a university.

1. Student life

Your experience as an international student on campus will have a significant impact on how you define and shape your future. 

Both schools and universities offer their students a variety of chances and experiences to participate in and enjoy the experience of studying in the US. 

So you can choose to participate in a sport, join a volunteer organization, or go to events taking place on campus, depending on how you would like to experience life on campus.

Therefore, it is crucial to research the campus activities and programs offered by each institution or university before deciding where to enroll to ensure that they match your preferences.

2. Career opportunity

Universities provide more possibilities if your goal is to obtain a master’s or a Ph.D. 

They also have additional resources and opportunities accessible to you since they place a greater emphasis on research. 

On the other hand, a college might be the perfect fit for you if you want to learn more about a specific subject of study for an undergraduate program.

Remember that both colleges and universities provide many of the same pathways for studies, regardless of what you choose to do with your degree.

Also read: What Can You Do With A Political Science Degree?: Career Opportunities And Tips.

3. Class size

Colleges typically have smaller classrooms, whereas universities have larger ones. 

Some students find large classes to be daunting, especially when they have to ask questions but they have more possibilities to interact with the lecturer for a more individualized learning experience in smaller classrooms.

Therefore, we advise you to always choose the type of setting you’re comfortable with.

University or college graduates

Pros And Cons Of College And University

In order to understand the difference between college and university, let’s quickly look at their pros and cons.

The Pros And Cons Of College

They offer a personalized learning experienceThey lack diversity and resources
They are focused on undergraduate teachingThey offer a limited curriculum
A table showing the pros and cons of college

The Pros And Cons Of University

Pros Cons
They have a wide array of programs and areas of studyThey offer a less personal attention
There is a diverse campus and cultureMore people require more planning
A table showing the pros and cons of university

Find out The University of Villanova Acceptance Rate [2022]


Aside from the aforementioned difference between college and university, there are more things that make them similar.

One of them is that they can be owned, run, and governed by the government, the private sector, or a combination of both. 

Also, both of them provide programs for higher education.

Ultimately, you can interchange both of them as they can mean the same thing.

Difference Between College And University: Frequently Asked Questions 

Is University The Same As College?

Yes, both of them can mean the same thing.

The primary area of difference between college and university is the kind of degree and program they offer.

Universities are larger educational establishments that provide both undergraduate and graduate degrees while liberal arts institutions, technical institutes, and community colleges are all considered to be colleges.

Which Is Better To Go To, College Or University?

Academically speaking, a college and a university are often the same.
So you can prefer any of them depending on what you want. 

For example, you would prefer a university if you want to attend a school with a wide range of programs and classes.

Can A University Be Called A College?

Yes, both university and college can be used interchangeably. 

Why Are Universities Better Than Colleges?

International students prefer universities over colleges because universities typically provide superior facilities, assistance, and a greater variety of courses and fields. 

Also, you must enroll in a university if you want to pursue a Master’s or Ph. D. in that field.

What Makes A College A University?

A college must have a graduate studies program distinct from the undergraduate before it can be considered a university.

Is College Cheaper Than University?

Yes, community colleges are less expensive to attend compared to universities.
To put that into perspective, out-of-state students who attend a public university can pay up to $35,000 in tuition, while community college tuition can be as little as $3,500 a year.



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