University Vs. College: What is Right for Me?
Deciding to pursue a post-secondary opportunity is one of the most important decisions you will make. If you’ve gotten that far, congratulations on your ambitions! There are a variety of options open to you, including attending a post-secondary educational institution—a university or college.
However, deciding whether to go to university or college is a big decision within itself. There are two different types of institutions, which means different skills to develop, different classroom environments, and even different types of opportunities once you graduate. Universities and colleges also vary greatly within their own categories: for example, a degree at College X may provide a different kind of experience than at College Y (and of course, both would be greatly different from going to University A or B).
Here are some typical comparisons between universities and colleges.
University: 4 years or more
College: 2 years or more ( or in some cases, a 1 year intensive course)
Universities typically (but not always) offer more lengthy degrees than colleges. This can be important considering the kind of investment you want to make. Can you commit to a 4-year program, or would you be more comfortable taking on a 2-year degree? (Note, however, that all institutions are flexible, and if you have concerns about finishing your degree on time, you should speak to a university/college counselor.)
University: large classes, focus on concepts, theory and critical thinking
College: smaller classes, focus on hands-on learning and application
If you’re the kind of person who thrives in a hands-on setting, you may have more difficulty adapting to a university setting. Given that classes are typically larger compared to colleges, universities don’t always offer the same opportunities to interact and apply the theory you are learning. That being said, you should also take into account what you are intending to study: a philosophy program (very theory-based) would probably not be taught as well in a college setting as a technology program (more hands-on).
Typical post-graduation opportunities
University: graduate school, professional schools (Law, Medicine, etc.), workforce
College: workforce, apprenticeship, continuing studies programs
Colleges often provide you with very practical, hands-on skills because this is reflective of what you will need in the workforce. However, pathways to certain advanced educational opportunities (e.g. law school) will almost always require a university Bachelor’s degree. This isn’t to say, though, that university graduates are unprepared for the workforce, or that college graduates can’t go on to pursue further studies. There are many different post-graduate opportunities available following either type of education.
What should I choose?
When making your decision, don’t forget to keep the following in mind as well:
- Factors specific to the university/college (e.g. does one institution have a better reputation?)
- Factors specific to the program of study (e.g. will this program be taught better at a certain school?)
- General educational/career goals (e.g. will a degree from this institution help my career path?)
If you do your research and consider all the factors, you’re bound to make the decision that is right for you.