Top Ways to Prefer a College to a University (2023 Guide)

Reserves high school or secondary school, students aspire to proceed to college or university. And sometimes, parents influence their search for the best college or university that suits their educational path.

However, the terms “University” and “College”, have become so interchangeable in usage that they may be mistaken. Some students and parents can barely identify the difference between them.

Still, it is essential to know why anyone prefers a college to a university or vice versa.

And more importantly, which of these two higher learning institutions suits you better? Do you need to understand the two concepts to find the most suitable institution for yourself or your child? Here it is.


What is a College?

A college is a private or public institution that offers undergraduate degrees in specialized courses. Colleges are known for specialized teachings such that a college teaches just one academic discipline or program.

Consequently, colleges are smaller than a university, and several colleges constitute a university in some cases. But some examples of standalone colleges worldwide include Liberal Art colleges and medical colleges.

Other ones include the College of Engineering, College of Education, College of Technology, and College of Performing Arts. Colleges don’t have as many staff as a university, but it has streamlined facilities sufficient for its program.

Many times, the population of students is also not up to those enrolled in a standard University. Besides, they majorly offer 3/4 years degree courses (Bachelor’s degree) and, at times, an associate degree. Let us look at some of the top Liberal Art Colleges around the world:


Top 10 Liberal Art Colleges in the United States.

  1. Amherst College
  2. Williams College
  3. Pomona College
  4. Swarthmore College
  5. Wellesley College
  6. Carleton College
  7. Haverford College
  8. Bowdoin College
  9. Claremont McKenna College
  10. Vassar College.

What about the top medical colleges in the US?


college to university


Top 7 Medical Colleges in the US

  1. Harvard Medical School
  2. Perelman School of Medicine
  3. David Geffen School of Medicine
  4. Baylor College of Medicine
  5. Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine
  6. Icahn School of Medicine
  7. UNC School of Medicine.


What is A University?

‘University’ appeared in the Middle English between 1205 CE and 1300 CE, before the word ‘College’ surfaced. The term originated from Latin words Universitas magisterium et scholarium, which refers to “a community of teachers and scholars”.

By definition, a university is a public or private institution of higher learning that offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Universities provide large and diverse academic disciplines and programs.

Consequently, universities usually have many students enrolled on diverse programs and degrees. In addition, they are also widely known for their vast and deep range of research studies.


What is the difference between a College and a University?

The first difference between a college and a university is that a college has a specialized discipline. On the other hand, a university is multidisciplinary, comprising several colleges and schools.

A student enrolled in a university may decide to pursue a Bachelor’s, Master’s degrees, PhD or even associate degree. However, you can divide a university into several colleges, such as college, social science and even law colleges.

A perfect example is Harvard College inside Harvard University. Harvard College offers a 4-year program for a student looking forward to bagging a bachelor’s degree.

Whereas Harvard University encompasses this college and ten other schools that offer various graduate and professional programs.

Each school runs its affairs independently, including their admission, teaching and research facilities. However, they do not offer undergraduate programs except for Harvard colleges.


Can a College Become a University?

Yes, they can. At some point, colleges may expand and receive accreditation to become a university. However, before an institution can receive university status, it must meet the following requirements for at least five years.


The organization is vital in any institution, likewise in a university.

  • This academic institution must offer graduate programs as well as associate programs. However, these two programs must stand independently from graduate programs and every other academic affair.
  • Also, the institution must have its primary staff and facilities for administering graduate and professional programs.
  • It must offer undergraduate programs in various academic disciplines leading to a bachelor’s degree or graduate degrees.
  • The students must have an opportunity to earn advanced and professional degrees in at least 3 professional fields. Examples of such advanced programs are the Master’s degree and PhD.



This institution must have the minimum financial, human resources, facilities, and equipment required for undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.



Finally, after verification, the institution must obtain a license from the state or the governing council of universities. Usually, this approval council grants the license for each program separately after verifying that the institution meets all the requirements.


college vs university


Can I Earn a Graduate Degree at a College?

Yes, in some cases. Colleges are in different levels and capacities, sometimes depending on the country’s prevailing educational system. While some colleges issue diploma certificates, others, in affiliation with universities, issue degree certificates.

Sometimes, there is a blurry line between a university and a college. And this confusion occurs when a college grows into a university status and prefers to remain a college by nomenclature.

It may also be due mostly to the prevailing traditions and culture. If the college has remained a college for too long, changing the name causes an upset the alumni.

Other important stakeholders to consider include their students, staff or even the institution community as a whole. An example is Union College in Ohio which was considering changing its name.

The idea could not survive because it led to a protest among the alumni who opposed it.

Considering this tendency to cause trouble, it is advisable for students seeking admission to focus on what the institution offers.

College or University, the name matters less if the institution offers an award you want in that specific field.


University or College, Which Should I Choose?

The answer to this question depends on you as a student and your needs. Usually, one of the two is a better choice for your chosen career path. However, you can attend a college in a University, which gives you the third option.

Contrary to the belief of many people that universities are better than colleges, both institutions are equal academically. However, the need of the student determines which of the two suits better than the other.

If you, as a student, prefers an academic institution with multiple programs, a university may be a better fit. But if you prefer attending a specialized school such as engineering, arts, medicine, law, choose a college.

Colleges often have smaller class, which foster more interaction between lecturers and students or among students.


applying to college and university



As we round off, the name of a school is not the most important factor in picking a school. Of course, institutions differ in degrees and awarded certificates. What matters most is if the school meets your academic needs. So, rather than choosing a school out of sentiments, consider what you expect from the school. You can then choose which college or university you suits better than the rest.


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