Colleges Every Homeschooler Should Know

fall college campusHave you ever wondered what is the difference between a college and a university? Do you know what a proprietary school is? Prepare yourself for college admissions by learning the vocabulary commonly used to describe different types of colleges.

Colleges: Colleges are four year institution of higher learning. Colleges grant bachelor’s degrees in arts and/or sciences.

Universities: Universities include both a four year liberal arts bachelor programs as well as graduate programs granting masters and Ph.D. degrees. Universities often also house professional schools such as medicine or law school as well as research facilities.

Public: Public schools are funded both through student tuition and taxpayer support. These institutions include universities and community colleges. Each state as a “flagship” public institution that often has the most resources and prestige of any public institution in that state. Examples of state public flagships include The University of Washington, The University of Wisconsin, The University of Florida, and the University of Michigan. Most states also have regional state universities. Regional state universities are public institutions. Examples of schools in this category include Truman State University, Western Washington University, James Madison University, Appalachian State University and Evergreen State College.

Private: Private schools are funded both through student tuition and private supports and endowments. Private institutions are usually non-profit which means they exist to fulfill the mission of providing an education for students not to earn money for shareholders. Because private colleges do not receive the same level of tax support, they typically have higher tuition than public institutions, but they may also offer more scholarships and financial aid. There are about 1,600 private non-profit colleges in the United States including well known schools such as Williams, Carleton, Davidson, and Swarthmore.

Highly Selective College: These colleges typically admit a low percentage of applicants, often less than 15%.  Colleges that are considered highly selective include Princeton, MIT, Stanford, University of Chicago, Duke, Amherst, and Pomona. Students who are admitted to highly selective colleges typically have stand out accomplishments in all areas – academic, extracurricular and testing. Homeschoolers interested in highly selective admissions will need to prepare themselves carefully beginning early in the high school years.

Art Schools (Conservatories, Art Institutes): These schools specialize in visual, performing, or creative arts. Art schools are a great fit for many students, but it is important to understand that they often are expensive. Art schools and conservatories often have less in the way of financial aid and scholarships. Admissions at art schools and conservatories can be different from other areas of college admissions. These schools typically decide to admit candidates based primarily on auditions or portfolios rather than on academic record or test scores. Some of the top conservatories and art schools have very competitive admissions processes.

Ivy League College: Often people assume Ivy League just means “the very best colleges” and are surprised to find out that the Ivy League is actually an athletic conference. While it is true that most Ivy League consistently appear on the lists of top ranked colleges, there are many other top name schools, such as Stanford, that are not members of the Ivy League. The members of the Ivy League are all private colleges located in the Northeast: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

Liberal Arts College: Liberal arts colleges are four year institutions that focus on the undergraduate experience. Students at liberal arts colleges are expected to obtain a strong foundation in a variety of subjects including humanities and science, as well as studying a particular area of interest in more depth. Liberal arts colleges are typically small, residential schools that offer a lot of personal attention.  Liberal arts colleges seek to encourage social responsibility as well. Homeschoolers wishing to learn more about liberal arts colleges may consider looking at The Colleges that Change Lives organization as well as the Council of Independent Colleges.

Community Colleges (Junior colleges, Technical colleges): These are two year public institutions. Community colleges offer two year associate’s degrees which allow students to transfer to four year colleges to finish liberal arts studies in traditional majors in the arts and sciences. They also typically offer certificate and technical degrees in careers fields such as HVAC, computers, medical technology, and paralegal. 47% of college students in the United States attend community colleges. Many homeschoolers begin study at community colleges through dual enrollment programs while still in high school. Community colleges vary in their admissions requirements. Some do not require students to take the ACT or SAT but instead may ask them to take a placement test such as the COMPASS. For many students community college may be their lowest cost college option, particularly if they can continue to live at home while completing their two year degree.

For profit (Proprietary colleges): These schools most typically offer career or technical education. They are operated as a business with the goal of maximizing profits. For profit schools have come under increasing scrutiny due to low graduation rates and high student loan debt. Students considering a for profit college should understand that the credits they earn may not easily transfer to other colleges. The transferability of credits can be affected both by articulation agreements and by accreditation.


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