Difference Between College and University

By: | Updated: Feb-24, 2022
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Higher education in the United States is available at colleges and universities, but the difference between these institutions is not always clear. This often raises questions not only for international students but even for Americans themselves. Experts of cheapwriting.services prepared an article about the difference between the two institutions. The company’s authors often communicate with students about college assignments, so they have an idea of the distinction. 

Difference Between Public and Private Colleges

What is College in the United States

Colleges in the United States refer to a wide range of institutions that teach:

  1. High school programs. In this case, college is synonymous with “high school”.
  2. Associate Degrees, some of which count as the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. In this case, the institution will be called a “community college.”
  3. Bachelor’s degree programs. Colleges of higher education may be part of a U.S. university or may be an independent institution.
  4. In very rare instances, colleges of higher education teach graduate programs in the United States.

What is University in the United States

The U.S. defines “universities” as institutions that offer both graduate and postgraduate programs. Usually, universities are made up of several divisions, which may be called schools, colleges, or, less commonly, institutes.

A university also includes one or more U.S. first-year colleges that teach bachelor’s degrees. For example, Harvard University includes 12 schools, Harvard College, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

A university in the United States also differs from a college in that it has a wider variety of subjects and majors, and it attracts more students.

In addition to the names “college” and “university”, the word “school” is often used for educational institutions, and less often “institute,” which also sounds quite unusual for students from foreign countries.

When universities in the United States are called “schools”

Any educational institution can be called a ”school” in the USA – not only junior and secondary schools but also courses, institutes, colleges, and universities.

What is Institution in the United States

Institutes in the U.S. are called educational institutions that have the right to award not degrees, but only professional certificates, certificates of advanced training, etc. It is true that the word “institute” can sometimes be found in the names of university departments that engage in advanced education and research – for example, Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

In general, the word “university” or “college” in the name of an institution does not affect the cost of tuition or the content or quality of programs. And most Americans use “university” and “college” as equivalent terms.

Which Is Better to Study: College or University?

Education in the USA is a serious step for an international student. That’s why we recommend choosing a university education, and here’s why:

  1. Although colleges in the U.S. are virtually as good as the education they offer, employers in America pay attention to the diploma. A university degree is always more valuable than a college degree.
  2. Opportunities to continue your education. Not all U.S. colleges offer post-graduate programs for students. Of course, after college, you can always enroll in graduate programs at another institution, but this requires extra time and money.
  3. Research. If your chosen field of study is in the sciences, you should consider applying to a U.S. university. Strong research facilities at U.S. universities allow students to engage in research, which will be a huge plus later in life.

Moreover, in the USA universities, you can get STEM education, which is more demanded and promising today.

Go to college if you have decided on your future specialty. Many colleges have specialization in areas — for example, it will not be possible to study natural sciences in liberal arts colleges. Another reason to choose a college is the chamber atmosphere and a small number of teachers and students.

Go to university if you are going to study for a master’s degree and do research. At universities, you can choose from a larger number of training courses and change your specialty during your studies. And graduates are more likely to get an internship at a world-class company and get a high-paying job after graduation.

No matter where you decide to apply, almost everywhere you will need to write admissions essays or essays in various disciplines throughout your studies. If you’re struggling with this type of work, you can get advice from experts in any field, to get law essay help, for example

Cost of Education at Colleges and Universities in the USA

When looking at the cost of education in the United States, you may notice that the price is different only for private and public institutions. It costs approximately the same to attend a public college as it does to attend a public university. Most expensive is tuition at private institutions with a centuries-old tradition. Tuition at the best private universities in the USA starts at $60,000 per year.

State universities cost about $30-50,000 a year. The cheapest education is offered by two-year colleges. Here you can get an education for $26,000 a year.


While there is little difference in the level of education, there is a difference between colleges and universities in the United States. The first difference is the diploma. A university degree is of great value to employers. Moreover, studying at a university is not only more convenient but also more profitable for the student. If you continue your education you won’t have to transfer to another institution and you can get a master’s degree in a program closely related to the undergraduate program you studied. In addition, if you want to pursue a promising STEM major, you should only consider studying at a university, because only here can you get the opportunity for research activities and hours of practice.


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