Make The Best Match
Kinds of Schools: Set Your Course
The school you choose needs to fit your interests, career goals, your financial situation and other factors (see the Find the Right Fit section below). Schools fall into these basic types:
Public versus private. Public schools are operated by state and local governments. Tuition is often less at a public school. Private schools are not affiliated with a government organization. They may be non-profit, such as colleges run by private foundations or religious denominations. Or, they may be for-profit businesses, such as many career, trade or technical schools.
Four-year colleges and universities. These can offer bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees, and sometimes include professional schools, like law school or medical school. Universities tend to be larger than colleges.
Two-year community and junior colleges. These offer two-year associate degrees and sometimes certifications in particular career fields, like nursing. Because their costs are often lower and admission is more open, many students start their college careers here.
Career, technical, vocational or trade schools. These prepare students for specific careers, such as welding,
cosmetology, medical imaging and electronics assembly. Their
programs may be two years or less. Many of these schools are
for-profit businesses. Do lots of research to make sure they can
deliver what they promise. One way of doing this is to make sure
the school is accredited (see Factors to Consider, below). It is
also a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau closest
to where the school is located.
Programs and Degrees by Type of School and Time to Graduate
Program or degree: Schools where offered: Typical time to graduate:
Technical, trade or vocational courses Career, technical, vocational, or trade schools; community and junior colleges 1-2 years of study
Associate Degree Community and junior colleges 2 years of study
Bachelor's Degree Four-year colleges and universities 4 years of study
Master's Degree Four-year colleges and universities Bachelor's degree + 1-2 years of additional study Doctorate Degree Four-year colleges and universities Bachelor's degree + Master's degree +2-3 years of additional study
Factors to Consider: Find the Right Fit
Things to think about as you look for schools:
Cost. What will your total annual costs be, including tuition and fees, room and board, books, travel and other expenses? Does the school participate in the federal student aid programs? The College Navigator listed in the Online Resources section below can help you find out.
Location. This is a biggie. Do you move away or not? If you decide you might go to a school away from home, factor in the cost of traveling to and from school for holiday and semester breaks.
On campus or off. If you go to a school nearby, do
you want to live at home, in an on-campus dorm/residence hall or in
private, off-campus housing? If you attend a school away from home,
do you want to live in an on-campus dorm or in private housing?
These decisions may require you to balance cost versus other
factors, such as your independence and lifestyle.
Size. Do you want a small, intimate setting? A school that's big enough to be a city by itself? Or something in between?
Majors and concentrations offered. If you have an
idea of what you want to study, does the school offer that major?
Does their program have a good reputation? If you aren't sure what
you want to study, does the school give you plenty of options?
Flexibility. If you need to work full-time while you go, does the school have night courses or other options to accommodate you? Will they let you go part-time? Do they offer summer courses?
Admission requirements. What academic standards (grade point average, required courses, etc.) do you have to meet in high school to get in? Which tests will you have to take?
Accreditation. Is the school accredited? An
accredited school meets certain educational standards set by an
independent agency. Accreditation helps ensure the training and
education you receive will meet the standards of employers in a
specific field. You can use the U.S. Department of Education's
Institution Accreditation Search Page to check a particular
school's accreditation or to find an accredited school in a
particular field or location.
Campus life. Does the school offer activities and social opportunities you like?
Religious affiliation. Do you want to attend a school affiliated with a particular church or religious denomination?
Diversity. Will you feel comfortable with the
makeup of the student body?
Career services. Does the school have programs with a good track record for helping graduates find good jobs?
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