Colleges Versus Universities: The Pros and Cons of Each & What It’s Like to Go There


What degree are you going for?

At a college: Most colleges are places where you’ll only be able to get a Bachelor’s degree. Classes are usually organized into different departments that represent different fields you can major in. Since colleges are usually smaller, they often don’t have hospitals or law schools on or close to campus like you’d find at a university. This also means you won’t be able to take advantage of accelerated degree programs. Some universities let you get a combination bachelors/masters degree, for example, if a student attends the same institution in related fields for both undergrad and graduate school.  

At a university: A larger university tends to mean you’ll have options galore when it comes to picking a field and exploring different academic passions. A university typically organizes their classes and majors into different schools or colleges within the university system that allows students to work with and learn from others with similar academic interests and make the university seem a bit smaller.

This division can also mean more run-around when it comes to getting some basic questions answered, though. “My least favorite part about NYU is the bureaucracy,” says Hannah Orenstein, a junior at New York University. “When I had a question for the residential life office about my housing, it took six unanswered phone calls and an unanswered email before I could finally talk to someone... and it wasn't even the person I needed to speak with. It's easy to feel like a number or like the administration doesn't care about your needs in those situations.” Long story short, you might have more resources available to you, but they might be harder to access.

Some universities also offer automatic (or practically guaranteed) admission to post-grad programs in health, legal, or other professional fields for students who earn a bachelor’s degree at their institution. You also sometimes have the chance to start interning or shadowing current grad or professional students as an undergrad, since they’re already right on campus. If you’ve been dreaming about becoming a doctor or lawyer and know you’re going to continue on after four years of undergrad, a larger university might have some additional perks to explore.

Sydney is a junior double majoring in Media and Cultural Studies and Political Science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., a short trip away from Minneapolis, her hometown. When Sydney is not producing content for a variety of platforms, she enjoys hanging out with friends, watching movies, reading, and indulging in a smoothie or tea from Caribou Coffee, the MN-based version of Starbucks.

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