Handbook: Preparing Your Child for College

Types of Colleges

Throughout this document, the word college is used to refer to all postsecondary institutions-technical colleges, junior colleges, community colleges, other two-year colleges, and four-year colleges and universities.

More than half of all recent high school graduates in the United States pursue some type of postsecondary education. In many other countries, a smaller percentage of students go on for more schooling after high school. However, in America, recent surveys show that most parents want their children to get some college education. There are many higher education options in the United States. For this reason, your child is likely to find a college wellsuited to his or her needs.

There are two basic types of post-secondary education institutions:

Many kinds of colleges offer programs that are less than four years in length. Most of these schools offer education and training programs that are two years in length or shorter. The programs often lead to a license, a certificate, an associate of arts (A.A.) degree, an associate of science (A.S.) degree, or an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree.

These schools usually offer a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or bachelor of science (B.S.) degree. Some also offer graduate and professional degrees.

Community, Technical, and Junior Colleges

Colleges with programs that are less than four years in length are often called community colleges, technical colleges, or junior colleges:

Community Colleges: These are public, two-year colleges. They mostly serve people from nearby communities and offer academic courses, technical courses, and continuing education courses. Public institutions are supported by state and local revenues.

Technical Colleges: These are generally colleges that have a special emphasis on education and training in technical fields. However, although some technical colleges offer academic courses and programs, not all technical colleges offer twoyear programs that lead to an associate of arts or science degree. Technical colleges may be private or public. Junior colleges and community colleges that offer many technical courses are often called "technical colleges."

Junior Colleges: These are generally two-year colleges that are private institutions. Some junior colleges are residential and are attended by students who come from other parts of the country.

Some programs at two-year colleges lead to an A.S. or A.A. degree in an academic discipline. These academic programs are often comparable to the first two years of a general academic program offered by a fouryear college or university. In many cases, students who earn two-year degrees may enter four-year schools and receive credit toward their B.A. or B.S. degrees.

Many junior and community colleges offer technical and occupational training, as well as academic courses. For example, many cardiovascular technicians, medical laboratory technicians, and computer technicians received their education and training at junior colleges, community colleges, or technical colleges.

Many junior, community, and technical colleges offer technical programs in cooperation with local businesses, industry, public service agencies, or other organizations. Some of these programs are formally connected to education programs that students start in high school; they are often referred to as "tech-prep" or "school-to-career" programs.*
*These school-to-career or tech-prep programs often provide students with an opportunity to learn new skills by working fora local employer and by taking high school courses that link with courses offered atlocal colleges.

Two-year colleges such as community colleges often operate under an "open admissions" policy that can vary from school to school. At some institutions, open admissions policies mean that anyone who has a high school diploma or GED certificate can enroll. At other schools, anyone 18 years of age or older can enroll or, in some cases, anyone deemed able to benefit from the programs at the schools can enroll.

Application requirements at colleges with two-year programs and shorter programs may include a high school transcript-a list of all the courses your child took and grades earned in four years of high schooland college entrance examination scores as well. Some schools have programs that allow open admissions, while other programs in the same school-particularly in scientific or technical subjects-may have further admission requirements. Because requirements vary widely, it is important to check into schools and programs individually.

Four-Year Colleges and Universities

Students who wish to pursue a general academic program usually choose a four-year college or university. These institutions may be either public or private. Such a program lays the foundation for more advanced studies and professional work. These colleges and universities primarily offer B.A. and B.S. degrees in the arts and sciences. Common fields of study include biology, chemistry, economics, English literature, foreign languages, history, political science, and zoology.

Here are the main differences between four-year colleges and universities:

Four-Year Colleges: These are postsecondary schools that provide four-year educational programs in the arts and sciences. These colleges confer bachelor's degrees.

Universities: These are postsecondary schools that include a college of arts and/or sciences, one or more programs of graduate studies, and one or more professional schools. Universities confer bachelor's degrees and graduate, master's and Ph.D. degrees. Many universities also confer professional degrees, for example, in law or medicine.

When a student earns a bachelor's degree it means that he or she has passed examinations in a broad range of courses and has studied one or two subject areas in greater depth. (These one or two subject areas are called a student's "major" area(s) of study or area(s) of "concentration.") A bachelor's degree is usually required before a student can begin studying for a graduate degree. A graduate degree is usually earned through two or more years of advanced studies beyond four years of college. This might be a master's or a doctoral degree in a particular field or a specialized degree required in certain professions such as law, social work, architecture, or medicine.

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