What is a College or University?
A college or university is an institution of higher education. In the United States, colleges and universities are accredited by a regional or national accrediting agency. They offer a range of educational degrees, including associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. With the ever evolving landscape of higher education, some colleges and universities have even started offering alternative education programs such as boot camps and credentialing-style programs.
What Is a 4-Year College?
A four-year college or university is an institution that grants bachelor’s degrees, and can also offer associate degrees, master’s degrees, and in some cases, doctoral degree programs. While most colleges and universities are four-year institutions, some offer both two-year programs and four-year programs.
Time Requirements for 4-Year Colleges and Universities
Despite the name, you’re not required to complete your undergraduate degree in four years. In many cases, students will extend their bachelor’s degree to a five-year program or take online classes or summer school classes to complete their degree in less than four years.
Students at 4-year colleges and universities are eligible to earn a bachelor’s degree after the completion of 120 to 130 academic credits. Students with an associate degree can usually transfer a portion of these credits toward their bachelor’s degree.
How do Transfer Credits Work?
Many 4-year colleges and universities allow for transfer credits to count towards degree completion. College degree credits are generally awarded for completed courses with a C- or better.
There are also many bachelor’s degrees that can be earned in as little as three years by attending summer sessions or part-time enrollment. Some students also have AP credits, which shortens the time needed to complete a degree.
Is a 4-year college or university for you?
If you’re looking for the traditional college experience you see in movies, a 4-year school is the place for you. Here are some of the reasons that students choose 4-year colleges and universities:
To receive a well-rounded education.
- At the undergraduate level, colleges, and universities require that students take courses in a number of areas to help them figure out what areas of study are best for them, as well as to provide a broad base of academic knowledge.
To be on the right path to your target career.
- Look at job listings for entry-level positions, and you’ll find that many require a bachelor’s degree. Completing a degree at a 4-year college or university will give you the academic skills you need to be ready for the demands of your job.
To make more money.
- Studies have shown that employees who have graduated from 4-year colleges and universities tend to earn more money than students with associate degrees or high school diplomas.
To prepare for graduate school.
- If you’re planning to continue your education with a master’s degree, attending a 4-year college or university will help prepare you academically for that degree. Also, attending a school that also offers graduate programs allows you to learn more about those programs before you enroll.
What types of students attend 4-year colleges and universities?
The types of students you’re likely to find at a college or university depends in part on the type of school it is. Some schools are single-sex, and some are geared to a type of student, such as historically black schools or colleges with students who are active in the military.
The types of programs the college or university specializes in will also affect the demographics of the student body; schools that are highly regarded for disciplines like healthcare or engineering will draw a different type of student than those that specialize in creative areas, like culinary, music or art and design.
While many students at 4-year colleges are fresh out of high school, you’ll find people of all ages at these schools. Some people may return to school to complete their bachelor’s degree after taking a break to start a career or a family. Others may have completed an associate degree and are transferring their credits to the 4-year college in order to complete their bachelor’s degree.
Common Majors at Four Year Colleges
It can be tough to choose a college major! You may not need to decide on a major right away, thankfully. Many colleges allow you to spend your first year of study taking general courses, allowing you to learn more about your interests and narrow down potential majors over time.
Common majors at four year colleges include:
- Biology and biotechnology
- Computer and information science
- Environmental science
- Health sciences
- Management information systems
- Performing arts
- Political science
- Sports medicine
- Visual arts
Can You Work and Attend 4 Year Colleges at the Same Time?
In a word: Yes! Many college students work a full-time or part-time job while attending school. If you plan to work while you attend school, it’s smart to have a conversation with your academic advisor about the best way to set up your schedule so you’re able to devote the necessary time to coursework and attending class. Your school may offer work-study programs that allow you to offset the cost of your tuition by working a few hours each week in a field related to your major.
Should you complete a degree program online?
Online schools and online degree programs in particular are gaining in popularity, especially for people who want to continue their education but can’t make time in their schedules to enroll full-time in daytime classes at a 4-year college or university. Online programs may also offer you financial savings, as you won’t have to pay room and board at a campus and the school doesn’t have to maintain a large campus of classrooms. Increased flexibility in scheduling classes is another reason some students choose to attend an online college or program.
How do you narrow down your choices of 4-year colleges and universities?
First, you’ll want to determine what type of 4-year college you’re seeking. Public colleges and universities tend to be larger and less expensive than private colleges, especially if you’re applying as an in-state student.
If you’re interested in learning about a variety of subjects, including history, political science, English and a foreign language, you may want to focus on liberal arts colleges, which require you to study a range of disciplines while you pursue your major.
On the other hand, if you know the type of skill or trade you want to learn, consider a career college, also known as a vocational school or trade school. These schools will offer general academic education as well as career-specific education.
The type of degree you’re seeking and the programs you’re interested in studying will also help determine the colleges and universities you apply to. Plus, if you’re interested in taking online courses, consider an online degree program or find out if the schools you’re interested in offer online courses.
Choosing Your Degree Type
Not sure if you’re ready to commit to a 4-year college or university? If you’re not sure what you want to study or if you have doubts about your ability to pay for and complete a bachelor’s degree program, consider applying for an associate degree. In some cases, you will be able to transfer your credits toward a bachelor’s degree program if you choose to continue your education at a 4-year college.
As you begin your college search, one of the first things you will be asked is what city or state you want to attend school in. While it may seem like a simple question, when deciding where to go, there are many different factors that play into this decision. Some students prefer going to school in their home state while others are looking for more diversity and choose schools in bigger cities.
While some people have certain areas they would never consider living or studying in, others don’t care where they end up as long as it is close enough for them to come home on the weekends. The most important thing about choosing which city or state you attend college in is finding the place that makes you happy and feels like home! Check out our detailed lists below to help you decide your path.