College vs university: what is the difference and which one to use?

College vs university: what is the difference and which one to use?

After completing high school studies, you may decide to join an institution to further your studies. But then, before deciding on what to pursue further, you have to consider things like your grades and many more other factors. Deciding between joining a college or a university may be a challenge. In most cases, we tend to be confused about differentiating the two. Is a college the same as a university? Find out in this college vs university comparison.

College vs university
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So, what is the difference between college and university? We all have different opinions; some tend to think that education at a university tends to be better than at a college, while others do not.

A college vs university comparison

There are many things to consider when deciding between university vs college courses. Some of these things include:

  • On-campus facilities and amenities
  • Accreditation
  • Type of school
  • Affordability
  • Geographic location

What is the difference between a college and a university? Have a look at the major variances between the two.

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What is a college?

What's the difference between college and university?
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What's the difference between college and university? Colleges are referred to as higher institutions that offer undergraduate degrees and certificates. They cater to various students such as high school students, adult learners, and many more.

They focus more on teaching and are less devoted to research efforts, although many colleges still have research programs.

Unlike in university, college education focuses more on everyday, functional or applied knowledge and practical learning – more or less teaching you how to do things. A course at a college can range from one to three years.

Types of colleges

  • Community colleges - They are also called junior colleges; they offer associate degrees and certificate programs.
  • Vocational and technical colleges - They provide specialized training for specific career fields.
  • Liberal arts colleges - They offer diverse education to students consisting of different subjects.

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  • They have a closer and more unified student community.
  • There is a focus on undergraduate teaching.
  • Students are likely to get more personalized attention from lectures.
  • They are more devoted to undergraduate teaching and less focused on research efforts.
  • Tuition costs a fraction of a four-year university, making them more affordable.
  • For students with certain interests, colleges often have additional curriculum specialization.


  • Most have fewer overall programs offered.
  • They do not offer direct access to more advanced degrees.
  • They lack diversity.
  • There are usually fewer resources and facilities for conducting research.
  • Faculty at colleges are less likely to be leading researchers in their fields.
  • Some may not offer the same resources or diversity of people and studies as a larger university.
  • Students are likely to need more education to get a higher-paying job.

What is a university?

Difference between university and college
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A university is an institution of higher education and research that awards academic degrees in several academic disciples.

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What is the difference between university and college? Some universities offer special programs where their students can earn both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in a reduced amount of time.

Universities are generally bigger and prestigious institutions offering both graduate and undergraduate degrees. Statistics also show that university graduates have more earning power compared to college graduates.

How long do you go to university for? Most undergraduate degrees take about three to five years to complete.

Unlike in college, where students are not many in a class, at the university, you are likely to sit in a lecture theatre with over 150 people, listen to a professor talk, and then read and hand in assignments and essays.

Types of universities

  • Research university - They have professors who conduct research, report their findings, and teach. Many research universities emphasize academics rather than vocational training, and students may not be prepared for specific professions.
  • Public university - Are universities that the state/government funds.
  • Private university - Receive no public funding.

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  • Offers more programs and has a more diverse community of students
  • Lecturers are likely to be well-known experts in their fields of study.
  • Availability of research opportunities.
  • There is more access to advanced degrees and more interaction with graduate students.


  • Students do not switch majors at a university because of the bureaucracy involved.
  • More costly.
  • Large class sizes.
  • Research is prioritized over undergraduate teaching.
  • There is less personalized attention from professors and lectures.

What is better, college or university?

University vs college
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Source: UGC

All things considered, you might want to join programs that are offered through university and college partnerships. With these kinds of programs, you would generally spend a year in college to earn a diploma and then a further three or four years in university to earn your degree.

Such a route is likely to be the best. Finally, before making any hasty decisions, do a lot of research – talk to former and current university and college students about what they are doing and their current feelings about the whole thing, and ask potential employers what kind of education they’d suggest to prepare you for the real world best.

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There are many things to consider when it comes to comparing college vs university. All in all, program value and education are perhaps the most important factors to consider when considering your options.

College vs university
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Source: Original

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So many Nigerian students nowadays dream of making money of their own instead of depending on their parents. However, they are convinced that a lot of obstacles stand in their way. Have you ever wondered, "What business can I do in Nigeria?" Here are some ideas to get you started.


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