Lette Berhe

Lette Berhe

U.S. 101: Community College vs. 4-year University

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.

Building your social network is an important part of being a college student in the U.S. Networking means creating a support system for both personal and professional developm

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: 

  • What universities are you applying to?
  • What colleges are you applying to?

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. 

The Degree

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).

The Cost 

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). 

Student Life 

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.

Need some help with research? Let us help you get started with a free consultation!

ent. By networking you can socialize with other international students and get to know university professors.

Whether you are planning to look for a job in the U.S. or back in your home country, networking is an essential part of an effective job search. The term “networking” may sound formal, but it can actually take place anywhere: one-on-one coffee chats, in class, or formal networking events.

But why network?Having a network of professionals you can contact could give you access to a hidden job market. This could give you a big advantage, allowing you to hear about job opportunities before they are even posted online.

How to Build Your Social Network


  • Attend international student events (e.g. cultural nights and conferences). These events are a great opportunity to socialize with people from all over the world and get to know people who work on campus or study the same major as you.

  • ​Get involved on and around campus. Finding off-campus activities will help expand your network and improve your English skills.

  • Attend seminars specialized in your industry. This is a great way to start developing your professional network.  Sometimes, these seminars are located on campus and they are given by your professors, teaching assistants, or mentors. Going to these events could be a good place to find out about internship and job opportunities.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile. A polished LinkedIn profile will help you make connections with people in the same industry as you. It also helps you create a professional portfolio where you can share your work experience, education, and job interests. LinkedIn is one of the best social media tools you can use to find a job or internship and get your first interview. Here are  some tips.

  • Follow your university on social media to find out about different events.

  • Reach out to university alumni through your university’s Career Network. Alumni who are still involved are a great source for advice and to help with informational interviews.

Conversation Tips


  • Purpose: Have a specific goal in mind. Use this to find the person or group that could help you achieve it.

  • Breaking the Ice*: Sometimes breaking the ice with someone at an event seems difficult. But starting a conversation can be as simple as:

  1. “What brings you to this event?”
  2. “Why did you start working for (insert company/group name here)?”

  • Career Goals: You should be flexible about how to achieve your goals. You might need to make a list of your career goals and practice talking about them before attending events. Even if they are not clear, networking events can offer you options you didn’t even know existed.

  • Follow-Up: You will probably meet and exchange information with a lot of people at networking events. A great idea is to write things down about that person (or your conversation with them) on the back of their business card. After the event, make sure you send them a quick email or letter mentioning something from your conversation.

Networking during your time as a student is essential to having a successful career, not only in the U.S., but anywhere else you decide to look for a job. The world is more interconnected than ever, and even if you are separated by thousands of miles, you never know what those connections can do for you (or what you can do for them). 

As an international student, it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to meet people and build your support network. Nowadays, you are more likely to be given a job by someone you know rather than just sending in an application. Building lasting relationships during college can help you develop professionally and help you achieve your goals.

Try some of these tips at your next college event and let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below or tagging us on Instagram (@epro360scholarships)! 

* To break the ice: to make people who have never met before feel relaxed and comfortable with each other.

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