In addition to determining their field of study (major and/or minor), students who want to study in the United States will need to decide what kind of university or college they would like to attend. The US higher education system includes more than 4,500 institutions, which provides a lot of choices and flexibility.
There are many factors to think about when making the decision, including comfort levels and budget. Here are some things to consider when determining which university or college to attend.
Two-year vs. four-year institutions
Some students choose to start their education at a two-year community or technical college. Students typically can attend these colleges at a relatively low cost. Some students choose a community college to complete their general education requirements before entering more focused, career-specific study at a four-year university. Community or technical colleges award two-year associate’s degrees, which is all that some careers require.
Many careers, however, require bachelor’s degrees from a four-year university. These universities offer more intensive studies related to career goals, and in many areas of study.
Both two- and four-year institutions are commonly available throughout the United States.
Private vs. public universities
If students choose a four-year university, they will need to decide between a publicly or privately funded university. Private universities are funded by endowments, gifts, grants, and student tuition fees. They are often (but not always) smaller institutions with fewer students, better access to faculty, and greater chances of entry into certain academic programs and classes. They are also typically more expensive, although scholarships can often offset the tuition costs.
Public universities are largely funded by US state governments. Public universities often have a more degree options, a greater number of students, and more competition to get into programs of study. However, both kinds of four-year universities strive to work with students to help them achieve their goals.
Factors to consider
Which type of university or college students choose will depend on many factors:
- Comfort level with the institution including class sizes, course intensity, student-instructor ratios
- What they can afford, including travel expenses. Keep in mind that scholarships may be available
- Field of study and whether it is available at each institution
Students should also try to visit the university of their choice before making a commitment to attend—either in person or through a “virtual visit” online. Researching institutions will help them visualize themselves on the university campus and will give them a better idea about whether it’s the right choice.
For more information, be sure to check out EducationUSA, a great resource from the US Department of Education specifically designed for students looking to study in the United States.