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There is a wide variety in the types of colleges and universities around the U.S. As you navigate the college application process, determining which college will fit you best starts with figuring out which TYPE of school works best for you.

Public vs. Private

Public colleges are 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 rely mainly on tuition, fees and private sources of funding. Private donations can sometimes provide generous financial aid packages for students.

4 year vs 2 year

Four-year colleges offer four-year programs that lead to a bachelor’s degree. These include universities and liberal arts colleges.

Two-year colleges offer programs that last up to two years that lead to a certificate or an associate degree. These include community colleges, vocational-technical colleges and career colleges.

Liberal Arts Colleges

A liberal arts college is typically a private, four-year school focusing on undergraduate programs of study that lead to a bachelor’s degree. Such colleges aim to impart a broad general knowledge and develop general intellectual capacities, in contrast to a professional, vocational, or technical curriculum. Students have a rounded education, taking courses in the humanities, arts, sciences, and social sciences. The colleges tend to be relatively small and place value on the close relationships between students and their professors.


The City University of New York is a system of public colleges in New York City. It’s the biggest urban university system in the US, comprising 25 colleges and graduate schools found all around the five boroughs of New York City. The CUNY system is made up of four-year colleges, two-year community colleges, and graduate and professional schools.


The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States. SUNY has 64 institutions, including research universities, academic medical centers, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, colleges of technology as well as an online learning network.


Many schools with “university” in their name are larger institutions that offer a variety of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Public universities are some of the most sizable schools and are also highly committed to producing research. Not all universities are public; private universities include, among many institutions, some of the Ivy League schools, like Princeton University.


The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended defines an HBCU as:

“any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary of Education.”

With over 100 schools around the nation, HBCU’s were originally founded to provide higher education opportunities for African Americans, they have historically enrolled and graduated many students, regardless of their ethnicity, race, or income level.

Vocational College

Vocational-technical and career colleges offer specialized training in a particular industry or career. Possible programs of study include the culinary arts, firefighting, nursing, and computer technology. These colleges usually offer certificates or associate degrees.