Selecting the Right Type of Higher Education

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By Lindsay Smith - Posted on 19 July 2010

Today’s high school students are faced with more choices than ever when it comes to selecting their post high school plans. For many, the hardest decision is not if they should go to college but instead where, with the daunting task of sorting through all of their college options.

ImageOne of the best ways to begin narrowing the “where” question is to explore what type of college best suits the student. Four-year colleges and universities are typically what people think of when they hear the word “college”, but there are many options out there, including two-year colleges, private schools, technical/trade schools, and special interest schools.

Two-year colleges (also known as community and/or junior colleges) typically offer a variety of two-year associate degree programs as well as specialized job training in certain areas. Students often select two-year colleges because they are usually less expensive and often offer vocational learning tracks, allowing students a chance to start their careers sooner and with little to no debt. In addition, if the student desires to go onto complete his or her bachelor’s degree, it is usually easy to transfer into a four-year college after completing a two-year degree program (which can be especially helpful for those students whose high school transcripts aren’t stellar).

Four-year colleges and universities* offer bachelor’s degrees in a variety of fields of study with curriculum that is usually broader than what is found at a two-year school. Under the four-year umbrella there are public schools and private schools. Public colleges are usually less expensive than private colleges. However, the low rates are normally available only to residents of the state in which the college is located. Private colleges are funded through endowments, fees, tuition, donations, and other private sources.

Although the cost of attending a private college is usually higher than a public college, private colleges are often smaller and can offer more personalized attention (and some believe, more prestige). Don’t rule out the idea of attending a private college only based on costs though, as most offer significant financial aid that can make their costs feasible. Also under the four-year college umbrella are special interest schools including single gender schools, religiously affiliated colleges, historically black colleges, and tribal colleges.

Trade/technical schools are privately owned and operated schools that offer a variety of training options in areas such as the culinary arts, cosmetology, automotive repair, music, court reporting, and a number of other vocational and direct-to-work type programs. Programs can take as little as a few months to complete to as much as a few years depending on the school and the field studied. Most have open admission policies, meaning they will accept all students who apply.

When deciding on a type of college, make sure to consider all options and then begin to narrow based on the student’s situation and goals. Stay tuned for “I’ve selected my college type, now what?” where we will discuss factors to take into consideration as a student selects their top five schools.

*Universities are usually larger than colleges and offer greater choices of majors and research

CC Image provided by stevecadman on Flickr

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