Is A College And A University The Same Thing?

Once you finish school, you must get admission into an institution for higher education and that is where different colleges or universities pop into your head. But the question remains: are they or are they not the same things? Most people use the terms interchangeably. Even though both are institutions for pursuing higher education there are certain differences between the two. In this article, we will see about ‘Is A College And A University The Same Thing?’.

Is A College And A University The Same Thing?

Is A College And A University The Same Thing?

When deciding on your career, you need to be clear about what course you want to study, and which institution offers it the best. Secondly, you need to decide whether you want to go to a college or a university, and based on these differences you can decide which one will you be willing to attend:

Difference based on:CollegeUniversity
MeaningA college is an institution of knowledge and education that offers several degree programs to students. A university is an institution that also offers several degree programs from bachelor’s to doctoral levels. It has more professional courses and offers specialization in certain fields. 
AffiliationMost colleges are affiliated with a university while others are autonomous. Universities are not affiliated with any other universities. 
ResearchNot all colleges offer research programs to their students. Very few colleges might be offering it, but it is not common. Universities offer research programs to their students. 
CoursesThe number of courses offered by colleges is limited. Often, they only offer undergraduate and graduate programs. Universities offer many courses to students from bachelor’s to doctoral levels. 
Head PersonThe head of a college is called the dean or the director.The head of a university is called the vice-chancellor.
Number of studentsSince the colleges are smaller, they have a smaller number of students enrolled in them. Universities are larger and therefore have a larger number of enrolled students. 
CampusThe campus of colleges is smaller in size. The campus of a university is bigger as it has many colleges or schools inside the same campus. 
FacilitiesThe facilities provided by colleges are less due to their smaller sizes.
The universities provide more facilities in comparison to colleges. 
PreferenceColleges are more preferred by the local students. 
International students prefer universities because of their professional courses and better facilities. 
BudgetThe colleges are usually cheaper. Universities are comparatively more expensive. 

Types of colleges and universities in the United States

The United States has three types of college: 

Community Colleges:

These are small institutions that offer two-year schooling, degree programs, and certificate courses related to different career options. 

Professional/ vocational Colleges:

Professional or vocational colleges offer two-year courses in training for a particular field like nursing. 

Liberal Arts College:

These colleges offer many classes for humanities and sciences for students who have yet to decide their majors. 

Universities can be divided into the following based on their formation:

  • Central University
  • State University
  • Private Universities
  • Deemed Universities

Misconceptions about colleges

  • The most common misconception about colleges is that people think that they are all private institutions. Where some of them are private, many come under the state. 
  • Not all colleges offer all kinds of courses. Some of them focus on specializing in one subject. It might be an engineering college, dentary college, etc.
  • Some people believe that Liberal arts college only offers arts subjects because of their name, but that is not the case. They also offer different sciences to study for. 

Misconceptions about universities

  • Universities constitute a different number of colleges and schools. Hence, if you go to a university, you will be studying in a college affiliated with that university. 
  • Universities are not always very big in terms of campus. Some have a small campus. They are only bigger in comparison to colleges. 
  • All universities are not public. Some are private institutions. 

Should you attend a college or a university?

Now that you know the difference between a college and a university and the final answer is that the two are not the same things, you are left with the decision of whether you want to attend a college or a university. The end decision depends on your needs and requirements. Based on your future goals you should compare which college or university would be the best for you. 

There is an assumption amongst most students that universities are always better than colleges. But this may vary from college to college and from university to university. You can choose whether to go to a college or to a university based on your future career goals and which course you would like to pursue and where you can get the best faculty for the same. 

As mentioned before, international students are more inclined towards universities. Here again, it depends on their career plans whether they should go to a college or a university. 

What are the similarities between a college and a university?

Though a college and a university are different from each other, there are a few similarities between the two. 

  • Both are educational institutions for higher education offering bachelor’s degrees. 
  • Some universities are still known as colleges because of their traditional reasons. 
  • Universities and colleges can be public or private or owned by governments.
  • Many of them offer admissions based on merit and require high-grade scores. 
  • Some universities and colleges require students to pass the entrance examination to get admission. 


Colleges and universities are both institutions that offer higher-level education. Though they have some similarities but are not the same things. They have a lot of differences from their sizes to the kinds of courses offered by both. The main reason is that universities offer research programs and more professional courses. Whether you want to attend a college, or a university is a decision based on your requirements and whether they fulfill them. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.1) What are the different types of college degrees you can get?

Ans. Depending on what your future career plans are you can pursue a bachelor’s degree or associate degree in your desired field. Further, you can get a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in the same. 

Q.2) What is a University College?

Ans. In some countries, a university college is an institution that offers higher education but is not an independent university.

Q.3) Is Harvard a university or a college?

Ans. Harvard College is a part of Harvard University which is a part of the IVY league and offers undergraduate courses. 

Q.4) Is college harder than university?

Ans. Universities are harder than colleges since they focus more on research. Since colleges are smaller, it is easier for the faculty to focus on the students which are difficult for university faculty because of the large number of students. The courses in universities are professional and therefore can be harder than the general study of all subjects offered by some community colleges.

Is A College And A University The Same Thing?

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