Leaving high school

At a Glance: Types of Colleges and How They Differ

By Understood Editors

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If your child is considering college, you may have lots of questions. Is a four-year degree the best choice? Should she think about a community college or trade college? Here are details on three different options.

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At a Glance: Types of Colleges and How They Differ

Here are the three major options for getting a degree after high school. There are benefits to each
type of school, depending on your child’s interests and strengths.

Trade and Vocational Colleges
• Typically two years or less
• Students may graduate with an Associate of Arts degree
• Only offers career-specic courses and degrees, such as automotive technician
• 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-specic training, such as
hotel management or dental assistant
• Provide remedial courses to improve academic skills
• Have open admission
• Are state-funded, so tuition tends to be low (less than $3,150 a year)
• Grant 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 of Science or Bachelor of Arts Degree
• Students may live on or off campus
Graphic of At a Glance: Types of Colleges and How They Differ
Graphic of At a Glance: Types of Colleges and How They Differ

Figuring out the best direction for your child is something the two of you can work on together. The school may have valuable input, too. Once you know what type of college is right for your child, check out U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard. This resource can help you determine the costs and value of the schools you’re considering.

About the Author

Understood Team

Understood Editors

The Understood team is composed of passionate writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

More by this author

Reviewed by Jim Rein Jan 14, 2014 Jan 14, 2014

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