Last Updated: Nov 20, 2020
I was talking to a few of my close friends the other day about our classes, majors, schools, etc. It was then that I realized the amazing majors that are taught at varying schools throughout the country. Some of my friends’ majors ranged from international relations and marketing to environmental studies and musical studies, and everyone goes to different types of schools—some of my friends go to community colleges while others go to large state schools. I thought I’d discuss the different types of schools available, and how it’s especially important for the rising seniors to get informed on the different types of higher education institutions and to explore as many options as possible.
State universities are often larger four-year schools, and every state has it's own system. For example, the State Universities of New York (SUNY) system has several campus locations across the state. The majority of students at these schools are in-state students, but many come from out of state and internationally as well. The schools are public, and thus receive federal funding. At larger schools like these, students usually have more majors to choose from; the largest state school, Arizona State University, has majors ranging from technology and innovation to journalism or business. Some other especially large state universities include:
- University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California
- Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
- The University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas
A private college or university is one that is privately funded (versus receiving funding by the government at state schools). There’s a broad range of sub-categories within the private college realm, including liberal arts colleges, fine arts colleges (including conservatory schools), medical schools, technology schools, and much more. Sometimes, these schools will have an affiliation with a religious sector, or even a single gender. These schools are typically more expensive since they don’t have state funding—and students don’t have the option for in-state tuition—but they generally provide lots of financial aid. Just as at a state university, students receive a solid education. Some private schools include:
- Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania
- Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina
- Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas
Conservatory schools are typically small, four-year schools for students who are devoted to pursuing a major in the arts—usually music, dance, theater, etc. The conservatory-type schools are perfect for prospective students who are positive they want to major in this field. Students are able to gain amazing experience within their major and work extremely close with their professors and peers. However, not all conservatory schools put as much focus on a liberal arts education like some other types of schools, which means that students may not get the opportunity to take general education classes in various subjects, including philosophy, history, mathematics, biology, etc. (similar to the standard classes you may take in high school). A few schools also have a conservatory as one of their divisions. Some conservatories in the United States include:
- The Juilliard School in New York, New York
- Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- The Boston Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts
Trade schools are similar to conservatories in that they provide a focused education in one particular area without the other general education requirements found at public and private institutions. But instead of solely the arts, trade schools educate in such areas as cosmetology, technical studies, computer design, or culinary studies. These can vary between for-profit and nonprofit schools, online or in-person classes, and can have a range of time commitments: some programs are just one year, while others can be four years. Here are some examples:
- Aveda Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, New York
- School of Automotive Machinists in Houston, Texas
Community colleges are primarily two-year public institutions that receive state funding. For many people looking for the college experience, but for whatever reason aren't ready or interested in a four-year institution, community colleges are a perfect option. They are a lot less expensive than most four-year schools and are often located close to your home. Many students who attend community colleges wind up transferring to other schools—I even know someone who went to a community school for two years and then attended Columbia University. It can be a great gateway for many students! Community colleges provide classes towards your future major to help you transition into the field. Here are a few examples:
- Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Massachusetts
- Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York
- Glendale Community College in Glendale, California
Regardless of your preference, finding the right college for you is all about what feels right. If the community college to four-year university path is right for you, go for it. If a small, private liberal arts college fits the bill, chase those dreams. There are a lot of great colleges out there, but there are a smaller handful that are specifically great for you. Hopefully this helped you get a little closer to figuring out which colleges those are!
Use this advice to guide you into finding the best fit college for you, and you can search for them using our College Search tool.