Universities can be quite large and usually include a liberal arts college, some professional colleges, and graduate programs. This means they can offer the two-year and four-year degrees as well as graduate degrees in advanced studies beyond four years. Universities offer a huge course selection and may have extensive resources. Class size varies, depending on the size of the university, the subject area, and the course level. University professors are usually involved in research. Graduate students, rather than professors, teach some of the classes. (These graduate students are called Teaching Assistants or TAs.)
Colleges offer four-year Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. Some also offer a two-year Associate of Arts (AA) degree. Colleges can be specialized (for example, in nursing) or they can offer a broad curriculum, like the liberal arts which focus on the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Professors see teaching as their primary responsibility. And classes tend to be smaller than those in universities. This provides students with more personal attention and better access to the faculty.
Community or junior colleges offer two-year liberal arts programs or specific career training programs. After completing their studies, students receive a certificate or an associate degree. Many students then transfer to a four-year college or university to continue their education.
Vocational, technical, professional, and trade schools:
These institutions are for students who know exactly what they want to do and have chosen certain specialized occupations. Study programs at these schools prepare students for specific careers and may last weeks, months, or years, depending on career requirements. At these schools, students usually receive a license, a certificate, or an associate degree.
FOUR YEAR COLLEGE
- Application with application fee
- Application deadline
- Must take SATs (see individual college requirements)
- Recommendation letters (Must submit resume when asking for recommendation letters)
TWO YEAR COMMUNITY COLLEGE
- 1 year Certificate or 2 year Associates Degree
- Rolling Admissions
- No SATs but must take ACCUPLACER exam
- No Essay
As you consider cost, keep in mind that public schools are usually less expensive than private schools.
Public schools are supported by the state's taxpayers: students pay 30% or less of the actual cost of education and the state covers the rest. Because residents of the state already support the school through taxes, public schools charge residents (in-state students) less than nonresidents (out-of-state students).
Private schools provide their own funding and tend to be more expensive than public schools. But because they are not tax-supported, private schools also tend to be more innovative in developing college financing plans, tuition assistance programs, and financial aid award packages.
So don't rule out any schools, yet, just because of cost. Often the more expensive schools also offer more financial aid. But do keep in mind, if your financial aid award includes loans, any money you borrow must be repaid.
What do you want to study? Do you have a specific subject in mind, like art or music, or do you want a more general education? Do you want a range of potential majors and study programs? Are you interested in a career that requires professional certification, and does that school provide the necessary training? Do you want to take advantage of special programs, like study abroad and internships?
What does the school require for admission? What does the school look for in prospective students? And what are your chances of being accepted?
Quality of Education:
How much contact do you want with your professors? How much does it matter to you whether professors or graduate students teach your courses? How involved do you want to be in research and in learning outside of the classroom?
How large or small a school you want? Do you prefer large lectures with hundreds of students or small classes with lots of student participation? Do you want to be on a big campus with many majors, an impressive library, and lots to do? Or would you prefer a small college where you know everyone’s name?
What’s the local community like? How safe are the campus and surrounding neighborhoods?
In addition to these and others you come up with, you might also want to consider:
- Percentage of applicants accepted
- Average test scores of the student
- Job placement services
Housing and resources:
If you plan to live on-campus, make sure you check out the quality of dorm life. Find out if housing is guaranteed for returning students. And don’t forget to check on the meal plan – can the school provide for special diet needs?
Does the school offer intramural and varsity sports? How are the sports facilities.
Attend College Nights and Fairs: College nights are especially helpful if you're unable to visit all the schools that interest you.
These events provide an excellent opportunity to talk to many college representatives and gather information. High school counselors know when and where these events are scheduled.
Often those staffing the booths at college fairs are current students or recent graduates. So, have questions prepared about student life, etc.
To make the most of this event, plan ahead. Here are a few tips:
- Find out which colleges will be represented.
- Decide which colleges interest you.
- Prepare a short list of questions.
- Dress appropriately—make a good impression.
- Take notes before moving to the next table.
- Gather brochures and business cards. Allow time to browse.
College Application & Essay:
The college application essay is a chance to explain yourself, to open your personality, charm, talents, vision and spirit to the admissions committee. It’s a chance to show you can think about things and that you can write clearly about your thoughts. Don’t let the chance disappear. Stand up straight and believe in yourself!
The “YOU” question:
Many colleges ask for an essay that boils down to “tell us about yourself.” The school just wants to know you better and see how you’ll introduce yourself. For example:
- “Please complete a one-page personal statement and submit it with your application.”
- How would you describe yourself as a human being? What quality do you like best in yourself and what do you like least? What quality would you most like to see flourish and which would you like to see wither?”
This direct question offers a chance to reveal your personality, insight and commitment. The danger is that it’s open-ended, so you need to focus. Find just one or two things that will reveal your best qualities, and avoid the urge to spill everything.