Find out the difference between college and university now, read this guide to understand everything today. Several students get perplexed by the terms college and university. These can affect the school search of an international student. It will not be good for a student seeking admission to be confused about what school to choose or which school is best for them, especially if they don’t know the differences.

Some students might require what a university offers but end up applying to a college and vice versa because they have limited understanding.

This article will help you to point out certain differences between college and university.

According to most experts, universities deliver both undergraduate and graduate programs, but several colleges concentrate exclusively on undergrads. And universities have larger capacities while that of a college is smaller. But is that all there is to it or is there more to know? Let’s find out.

The difference between college and university in the United States, may not often be evident to students who lived and grew up in different parts of the world. This is because the word “college” does not have a similar meaning in every country, and this can create more confusion for forthcoming international students who will like to study in the U.S.

For instance, according to George DaPonte, director of international admissions at the University of Tampa in Florida “In Spanish, ‘colegio’ implies to high school, ”

For this and several other reasons, some forthcoming students may disregard U.S. schools that have “college” rather than “university” in their name, admissions professionals say. By doing so, students could miss out on a school that may have been a good option.

Although, there are some four-year postsecondary institutions in the U.S. that have “college” in their name and others have “university,” both types offer undergraduate degrees. Below are certain things that you might want to keep in mind when researching U.S. institutions that call themselves colleges and those that identify as universities.

difference between college and university

What is college?

Most times schools that have “college” in their name are smaller institutions that accentuate undergraduate education, in an extensive range of educational areas. Universities are generally bigger institutions that offer a variety of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Many universities are also devoted to organizing research. This was stated by Johanna Fishbein, head of a university when advising the United World College of South East Asia’s Dover Campus, an international school, via email. This is not a rigorous rule though, since there are a number of exceptions.

Some colleges, recognized as liberal arts colleges, offer students an education in an extensive range of educational areas as contradicted to having them specialize early in one specific subject.

Since liberal arts colleges are not widely known outside the U.S., forthcoming international students are not always knowledgeable about them, according to Carly Mankus, the senior assistant dean of international admission at Franklin and Marshall College, a liberal arts school situated in Pennsylvania.

According to some admissions experts, forthcoming students may also occasionally inaccurately speculate that liberal arts institutions only concentrate on the humanities. But several of these schools offer degrees in science fields too.

According to Fishbein, who serves as president of the International Association for College Admission Counseling another widely known misunderstanding is that schools with “college” in their name can not deliver much in the way of research opportunities. But, for instance, 65 percent of Franklin and Marshall students partake in research before they graduate, Mankus reveals.

Another category of school in the U.S. with “college” in its name is a community college. These are two-year schools that award associate degrees and career-related certificates. Community colleges differ in enrollment volume – some are big, despite having “college” in their name.

Few students are known to start up their education at a community college and then switch to a four-year college or university to finalize a bachelor’s degree.

What Is a University?

Many schools with “university” in their name are bigger institutions that deliver a variety of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Public universities are some of the extensively ample schools, sometimes inducing tens of thousands of students. These schools are also highly devoted to organizing research.

But note that it is a misunderstanding that all schools with “university” in their name are big, according to Chelsea Keeney, assistant director of international student recruitment at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities.

Some universities are somewhat small in size, such universities are the Marymount California University, which had a total enrollment of 985 students in fall 2016, according to the U.S. News data.

Moreover, not all universities are public. Private universities comprise, among many institutions, some of the Ivy League schools, like Princeton University.

According to Keeney, On some occasions, adding to the confusion for international students, is the fact that big universities are often composed of smaller divisions called colleges. Each of these colleges has a particular educational emphasis, such as business, engineering, or social work.

And the liberal arts-type study is not restricted to small colleges. Some, but not all, universities have a core curriculum for undergraduates, implying that students take a variety of general education courses before concentrating on their major.

By the essence of their size, large universities incline to deliver a larger array of research opportunities than small colleges. “But undergraduate students may need to compete with graduate students for resources and opportunities,” Fishbein said.

Difference between college and university

The differences between a university and a college are distinct. Just like the aforementioned,

1.) A university has larger capacities and a college has smaller capacities

2.) A university offers undergraduate and graduate programs while a college offers only one of the programs.

And just as seen above, there are exceptions.


According to Mankus from Franklin and Marshall, the forthcoming international students may want to keep their choices open by applying to different categories of institutions in the U.S. She explains that students frequently learn new things about themselves and their choices later in the application process.

“If someplace really interests you or someplace just sounds so tantalizing, even if it’s not that same type that you think you might want when you start out, keep it in the mix,” Mankus says. “What harm could it do?”