In the United States, students begin college after completing 12 years of education. There are a number of different types of colleges in the United States. Most colleges focus on what is known as a liberal arts education providing education in a variety of fields. Some colleges focus their education on technical education or education in music or the arts.
Some colleges, commonly called community colleges, provide only two years of college. Students at these colleges receive a two year degree after which they can work in certain fields. Many of these students, however, transfer after two years to a four year college to complete their bachelor degree.
American four year colleges are often overlooked by many people who live outside the United States. The term college generally refers to a institution of higher education that does not offer any graduate level programs. These colleges are often smaller and focus more of their attention on their students rather than on research. Admission to these colleges ranges from many colleges with open admissions, which means they accept everyone who applies, to some of the most selective colleges in the United States. For students considering graduate school, including medical school, these small colleges can be a wonderful choice as many of these colleges have a high rate of placing their students into top graduate programs. We strongly encourage the international students we work with to take a serious look at four year colleges as they often provide a stronger undergraduate education than larger universities. Well known four year colleges include Amherst College, Carleton College and
Universities tend to be larger institutions whose primary focus is on graduate level education and research in various fields. Universities generally consist of several colleges such as a college of engineering or a business college. Because they tend to be larger institutions, universities are often better known to international students than the smaller colleges. However, because their focus is generally not as much on the undergraduate students, it may be more difficult at a larger university to get the personalized attention in your education that you might receive at a smaller college. Like colleges, the difficult of admission to universities varies dramatically between different universities. Some universities are very easy to gain admission to while some of the best known universities accept fewer than 15% of the students that apply. Well known universities include the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University.
Be aware that there are some colleges that have graduate programs and are large institutions while there are some universities that are small institutions with very limited graduate level programs.
Finally, one issue that you should consider while looking at either colleges or universities it to make sure that they are accredited institutions. The U.S. Department of Education certifies agencies to provide accreditation to colleges and universities. Generally these agencies provide regional accreditation that ensures that the college or university has met minimal academic and financial standards.
If you have other questions about higher education in the United States, email us or give us a call at 952-449-5245.