If you want to go to college to study in the United States, you are spoilt for choice: there are more than 2000 Four-Year colleges in the USA. Going to college “is a common term in the USA and is more commonly used than” going to university “. Everyday language usage thus provides little information about what kind of university is meant. However, four-year colleges in the USA can be distinguished from other types of higher education institutions on the basis of certain characteristics.
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A conceptual approach of the colleges
There are two things behind the term “college” in the USA:
- Independent institution, called Four-Year-College, which exclusively offers study programmes in the undergraduate field.
- Part of a larger university in the USA, which is explicitly responsible for undergraduate education. At the Professional and Graduate Schools of the universities, on the other hand, graduate programmes (Master’s, PhD) are offered. Students who complete their bachelor’s degree at such a college can then continue their studies at the same university.
Four-Year-Colleges in the USA are named after their courses of study: The duration of studies at the Four-Year-College is usually four years.
The two-years colleges are different from these. Its most common form, community colleges, offer two-year degree programs leading to the Associate Degree, opening the door to an academic career for many young people. Graduates will then have the opportunity to spend another two years at a university or four-year college in the USA. There they can complete their Bachelor’s degree.
The term university usually refers to those institutions in the USA that offer graduate studies and usually have a strong research tradition.
Characteristics of Four-Year-Colleges in the USA
Four-Year-Colleges mainly offer four-year bachelor’s programmes, which are usually completed with a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.
Colleges are often smaller than universities. This is especially true of many private colleges. Smaller universities have a number of advantages: In many courses, the group sizes are manageable and the atmosphere on campus is often informal. The relationship between professors and students is also very good in many cases.
The advantage of many Four-Year-Colleges in the USA: The only requirement for admission is a high school diploma. Some universities also require additional academic admission tests such as SAT or ACT.
Liberal Arts Colleges
A special feature among the colleges in the USA are the Liberal Arts Colleges. Many of these institutions are small, private and have an excellent reputation. They can easily compete with the major universities in the USA and win international rankings. Study places are correspondingly sought-after. The tuition fees are usually higher than at other universities.
The philosophy of the Liberal Arts Colleges is to teach students to “learn to think”. They are therefore rather critical of the acquisition of pure knowledge. In addition, Liberal Arts Colleges in the USA can be characterized as follows:
- The aim of the course is to impart a broad knowledge base; it is not vocational, but a basic undergraduate education that is intended to contribute to the development of personality.
- Course content: Humanities subjects such as literature or history instead of a technically oriented course of studies
- Study structure: Studium Generale; the choice of main subject is often not made until the third year of study
Good to know: When talking about Liberal Arts Colleges in the USA, in some cases the term refers to the size of the university and not the range of courses on offer.