Types of colleges and how they differ

You may have a lot of questions when you and your child are considering college. Is a four-year degree the best choice? What about a community college or trade college? Learn about the three major options for getting a degree after high school.

Trade and vocational colleges

  • Typically two years or less

  • Students may graduate with an associate’s degree

  • Only offers career-specific courses and degrees, like automotive technology

  • Students only have to study subjects that apply to their field of interest

Junior and community colleges

  • Offer courses in liberal arts subjects as well as career-specific training, like hotel management or dental hygiene

  • Provide courses to help improve academic skills

  • Have open admission

  • Are state-funded, so tuition tends to be lower

  • Give two-year degrees, but credits can be transferred to four-year colleges

  • Most students live off campus

Four-year colleges

  • Includes liberal arts colleges and undergraduate universities

  • Can be private or state-funded

  • Schools vary in size, admissions criteria, programs, and cost

  • Students can graduate with a bachelor’s degree

  • Students may live on or off campus

Get tips on how to talk to your child realistically about college. Learn about college programs for kids who learn and think differently — along with scholarship opportunities.


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