We are here to support your program.

Categories of Colleges and Universities

As a student starts identifying college preferences, the classifications of colleges can be confusing to understand. Here are some common college types and their definitions, which you can use to have conversations with your students about their preferences. Useful college admissions terms.

College Types

Universities: Are larger and offer more majors and degree options—bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees—than colleges. Most universities contain several smaller colleges, such as colleges of liberal arts, engineering or health sciences. These colleges can prepare you for a variety of careers or for graduate study.

Community College: Offer two-year associate degrees that prepare you to transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor's degree. They also offer other associate degrees and certificates that focus on preparing you for a certain career. Community colleges are often an affordable option with relatively low tuition.

Liberal Arts College: Offer a broad base of courses in the liberal arts, which includes areas such as literature, history, languages, mathematics and life sciences. Most are private and offer four-year programs that lead to a bachelor's degree. These colleges can prepare you for a variety of careers or for graduate study.

Vocational-Technical College: Offer specialized training in a particular industry or career. Possible programs of study include the culinary arts, firefighting, dental hygiene and medical-records technology. These colleges usually offer certificates or associate degrees.

Art & Design: In addition to regular course work, these colleges provide training in areas such as photography, music, theater or fashion design. Most of these colleges offer associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees in the fine arts or a specialized field.

College Settings

Public Colleges and Universities: Funded by local and state governments and usually offer lower tuition rates than private colleges, especially for students who are residents of the state where a college is located.

Private Colleges and Universities: Rely mainly on tuition, fees and private sources of funding. Private donations can sometimes provide generous financial aid packages for students.

Single Sex (Gender Specific): Specifically for men or women.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Colleges and universities founded with the mission of educating  Black students. 

Hispanic Serving Institution: HSIs are colleges where at least 25 percent of the full-time undergraduate students are Hispanic.

Religious Affiliation: Are connected to a religious faith. The connection may be historic only, or it may affect day-to-day student life.

For-Profit/ Proprietary Colleges: Businesses that offer a variety of degree programs which typically prepare students for a specific career. They tend to have higher costs, which could mean graduating with more debt. Credits earned may not transfer to other colleges.