What to keep in mind when deciding on a university or college

Are you interested in continuing your education in the United States? In addition to determining your field of study (major and/or minor), you will need to decide what kind of university or college you would like to attend. The US higher education system includes more than 4,500 institutions, which provides a lot of choices and flexibility. 

There are many factors to think about when making your decision, including your comfort levels and budget. Here are some things to consider when determining which university or college you would like to attend.  

Two-year vs. four-year institutions 

Some students choose to start their education at a two-year community or technical college. Students typically can attend these colleges at a relatively low cost. Some students choose a community college to complete their general education requirements before entering more focused, career-specific study at a four-year university. Community or technical colleges award two-year associate’s degrees, which is all that some careers require.  

Many careers, however, require bachelor’s degrees from a four-year university. These universities offer more intensive studies related to your career goals, and in many areas of study.  

Both two- and four-year institutions are commonly available throughout the United States. 

Private vs. public universities 

If you choose a four-year university, you will need to decide between a publicly or privately funded university. Private universities are funded by endowments, gifts, grants, and student tuition fees. They are often (but not always) smaller institutions with fewer students, better access to faculty, and greater chances of entry into certain academic programs and classes. They are also typically more expensive, although scholarships can often offset the tuition costs.  

Public universities are largely funded by US state governments. Public universities often have a more degree options, a greater number of students, and more competition to get into programs of study. However, both kinds of four-year universities strive to work with students to help them achieve their goals.  

Factors to consider 

Which type of university or college you choose will depend on many factors:  

  1. Your comfort level with the institution including class sizes, course intensity, student-instructor ratios 
  2. What you can afford, including travel expenses. Keep in mind that scholarships may be available 
  3. Your field of study and whether it is available at each institution 

Be sure to talk to your counsellor about these considerations so you can start planning your path to university. If possible, try to visit the university of your choice before making a commitment to attend—either in person or you can have a “virtual visit” online. Researching institutions will help you visualize yourself on the university campus and will give you a better idea about whether it’s the right choice for you. 

For more information, be sure to check out EducationUSAa great resource from the US Department of Education specifically designed for students looking to study in the United States. 

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