Which College Institutions Are Right for Me?

"Which College Institutions are right for me?" If that is your question, then I hope to help you understand the difference between a community college, a technical college, a university,and other alternative schools.

Choosing the right kind of school for your specific situation can help you get through school quicker. Choosing the right kind of school can also save you a lot of money in school loans and other expenses.

You might be saying, "I thought college was college." This is true to a certain point. Education is education and you can go about getting it in a variety of ways. But, not all those ways are created equal.


Knowing the difference between a university and a technical college may save you a lot of headache if you decide to go to a technical college first and then to a university later!

The Different College Institutions

I am going to briefly describe each type of college institution here and then go into greater detail later. Here they are:Two Year Colleges

Two year college institutions are typically smaller schools with a smaller range of degrees available. These include technical, business, and community colleges. Sometimes they go by city college names as well.

These colleges are used for a few reasons:

-To complete a program at the two year college to further your career options

-To complete a program and receive the credits which you can then transfer to a 4 year college

-If you need to complete continuing education requirements for your specific career field

-Specific training for your company

Also, people will sometimes attend here to get their GPA up high enough to get into a better four year university. This is because the two year year college's grades will take precedence over high school grades.

Two year colleges are usually reasonably priced and can offer some kind of financial aid. Some even offer scholarships.

These kinds of benefits really make two year college institutions a great option for those who want to improve their opportunities in their career or just want to transfer to a 4 year college.

Four year Colleges

Four year colleges are typically called universities. These are traditional universities that have a large variety of degrees and programs. These are also the most common kind of higher education.

When people are talking about going to college, they are usually talking about these kinds of schools. They vary in cost depending on a variety of different reasons.

Alternative Colleges

"Alternative colleges" is just a phrase that I have attached to the types of schools that have "accelerated" programs. These are schools that cater to adult college students who want to go back to school or to get their degree.

When I say accelerated programs, I am speaking of programs where you only complete courses that are relevant to your major. This is a nice bonus because you don't have to worry about diversity or creative arts credits if you are trying to get a degree in business administration!

These types of college institutions usually cost more, comparatively speaking, to a typical four year college. However, they usually have very helpful financial aid advisers who can help you obtain the necessary funding if you desire to attend.

Many returning adult students find these colleges very useful because they cater to the person who still has to work while getting their degree.

More Info About Each

Two Year Colleges

Two year college institutions have some benefits that four year and alternative colleges don't. One thing is that because it is one of the smaller college institutions, the class sizes are smaller. This leads to more personal attention from the professor to the students they teach.


Some two year colleges have just as large of class sizes as 4 year schools though. It just depends on which school it is and what program you are studying in. You'll have to check the school you are interested in to see if they have this benefit.

Also, the programs at these two year colleges are usually more focused on the program. The classes you take will pretty much always relate to whatever it is you're studying. This would be good for the adult college student who just wants to progress in their chosen career.

That being said, there are some draw backs to two year college institutions. For one, given their size, number of faculty, and funding, they may not have the program that you want. No school has every degree possible to man. But, two year schools can be especially limited when it comes to what you can study.

Another drawback is that sometimes universities won't accept many credits from certain two year schools. A simple way to fix this problem is to find out who is in charge of transfer students at the university (usually in an office called the transfer office).

Then, find out who determines what will transfer and what won't (sometimes called a transfer evaluator). They will be able to give you a list of classes that the university will accept for credit from the two year college you are planning on attending.

Word of Advice If you are planning on going to a two year college and then transferring to a four year college, double check that the four year college will accept most, if not all, of the credits you will get at the two year college.

If they do accept them, get the paper that shows it is so. If they don't, then find out why. The four year school may not accept a specific course because they don't have enough information on it to determine what class it would be equivalent to on their campus.

This can sometimes be fixed by simply getting a class description (which can easily be obtained from a course catalog or the schools online website) and a class syllabus from the professor who teaches the class at the two year school (which you can easily obtain by email or office visit).

Then you just submit this information to the transfer office at the four year school for evaluation. My school calls it an "equivalency review". Make sure to check with your individual school to make sure you know their specific policies and procedures before attempting any transfer evaluation.

I know that this sounds like a long and drawn out process, but that is because IT IS! Don't worry about the time though. If it means that you don't have to take the class again after transferring to the four year school (which would also mean many hours and hundreds of dollars more) then it is worth it!

Four Year Colleges

Most people are familiar with these kinds of colleges. They are the most common! These college institutions have big advantages over the other college institutions because they have the means to have many different programs, professors, extra-curricular activities, and resources that students want.

Four year schools generally have associates, bachelors, and some master's degrees. Some even have PhD programs. Others also have continuing education programs for the community and business people in the area to help further their careers and lives.

These schools have many extracurricular activities like sports, clubs, and inter-murals. They have large libraries, computer labs, and other student resources. All of these and many more make four year schools a great choice, and are the standard choice for many students today.

Universities are usually less in cost than the alternative schools I mentioned earlier. They have payment options too, which makes the blow of tuition easier to bear (check with your cashier's office).

However, with a larger school usually means larger class sizes. This can be easily overcome by visiting the professor during their scheduled office hours. These hours will usually be listed in the course syllabus. Most professors are more than happy to help those who will come to them for help.

Something else to consider is that some employers regard a degree from a four year school as having more worth than from a two year school or an alternative school.

In their mind it is worth more. You graduate from a four year school as a well educated person rather someone with a specific skill.

Don't let this discourage you though if you want to go to a two year school or an alternative school. Each of the schools that I have mentioned have many employers who hire their graduates. Many also have placement programs to help you find a job after graduation.

Alternative Colleges

Alternative schools are a great option because they cater to many lifestyles (especially the adult college student)! They give options for faster programs to obtain degrees. I say faster because they most likely won't include classes to fulfill unnecessary requirements.

These college institutions also cater to those who are already working full-time jobs. A friend I work with is attending one of these schools full-time and working full-time as well (some might think he's crazy). But, he still fulfills all his work requirements and his schooling.

The cost at these colleges is quite a bit more though. Be prepared to start filling out financial aid forms or getting on a payment plan. Most schools like this anticipate students having to get financial aid and will provide you with excellent assistance.

Something that I can say about schools like these are that their staff is much more customer oriented than the typical four year school. They have to be! With four year schools being less expensive, these schools have to provide top notch service.

If you want, most will provide you with a tour of their school and an overview of the program that you are most interested in. Just give them a call and I'm sure they will be happy to schedule an appointment for you with an adviser.

I'm sure the other schools will do the same thing, just not as quickly (or as friendly)!

In Conclusion...

When picking which of these college institutions to attend, you will want to evaluate your needs. You need to decide what is right for you, whether a returning adult college student or new freshman.

For some it will be a short certification program at a technical college. For others it will be 5 to 6 years for a master's degree at a university!

In any case, you will want to ask yourself these questions:

-What do I want to do as my career?

-When do I want to be finished with school?

-Where do I want to go with my career?

-How much money do I need to make to provide for myself and my family?

-How much can I afford to pay? Do I need a payment plan?

-What financial aid should I try to qualify for?

-Which school has the program I want?

-Will this school work with my schedule?

-What will be my total cost per semester to attend school?

-Will this school help me learn what I need in order to succeed long term in my career?

-Do they have on campus housing?

-How can I meet with a counselor?

-Will I be able to transfer my credits if I decide to go to another college?

-Does the school offer any financial aid to someone in my circumstance?

-Will I still be able to provide for mine and my family's needs while I go through this program?


These are just some questions you will have. I'm sure that you will have more as you go along. But, these should get you to someone who can answer others that come up.

After you have given it some thought and consideration, then you can decide which of all these college institutions is right for you. Good Luck!

Want more specific information about these college institutions? Learn more about alternative schools here.

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