by Lette Berhe
If English isn’t your first language, you already know that it has a lot of exceptions that make it a bit confusing. So, before explaining the difference between a community college and a 4-year university, let me explain the use of the word “college” in American English.
In the U.S. the word “college” is commonly used instead of “university”. For example, the following questions mean the exact same thing:
So it will be common for you to hear people use “college” when speaking about schools such as Harvard, Yale, UCLA, etc. These schools, however, are 4-year universities and not community colleges.
We know – English.
But keep reading to find out the real differences between a community college and a 4-year university.
If you apply to a community college, you will be applying to receive an associate’s (A.A.) degree. This degree normally takes about 2 years and requires general education courses such as Math, English, History, etc. However, it is becoming more common to see a limited number of 4-year degrees being offered at some community colleges.
At a 4-year university, you will be studying for about 4 years to receive a bachelor’s (B.A. or B.S.) degree. These degrees usually require general education courses, but students also take more specialized courses in a selected major (e.g. Psychology, Architecture, Accounting).
Community colleges are public institutions that offer open enrollment. This means that almost anyone who applies will be accepted.
4-year universities can be both public and private, but have a more selective admissions process. To be accepted, many universities have minimum requirements that students must meet (e.g. SAT and TOEFL scores, personal statements).
One of the reasons community colleges are so popular is the cost; they are much cheaper than 4-year universities. This is because community colleges try to make higher education more affordable and more accessible to students.
The open enrollment and the cheaper cost have made community colleges a popular choice for U.S. residents who are not sure what they want to study. They often complete the general education courses for less money, and then transfer to a 4-year university to complete a bachelor’s degree (also a possibility for you as an international student).
When you think of going to college in the U.S., you may think of a big campus with student dorms, football games, and fraternities and sororities. If this is the college experience you want, you want to attend a 4-year university.
Community colleges were designed for local students, which means that students often live at home and commute to school. These schools do not offer on-campus housing, but they often do have some student clubs and sports teams.
Why Choose a Community College?
Even though you are an international student, the benefits are similar to those for U.S. residents.
If your dream is to study in the U.S. but you have a low budget, consider a community college.
If you aren’t sure about your future career, consider a community college (and transfer to a bigger school later).
If you want to improve your GPA and your chances of getting into a Harvard or Yale, consider a community college.
Community colleges don’t always do as much recruiting as universities, so the best place to start is to think a city or state where you would like to live and research the schools in those areas.
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