Colleges and Universities, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Education in America
Colleges and Universities

Colleges and Universities
Some Definitions. The terms “college” and “university” are often used interchangeably. A university is a larger institution often having more than one college, law, medical, and dental schools, or business or other specialized schools. The term “campus” refers to the land the college sits on and the buildings on it. Colleges range from huge state-supported university systems, to small “liberal arts” and religious schools.

Two year colleges, often called community colleges, usually award the Associate of Arts degree (A.A.). They accept most applicants, are often public supported, and have lower tuition than four-year schools.

Four year colleges, called “undergraduate” schools, form the mainstream of American “higher education.” Admission requirements, courses offered, residence facilities and other features will vary widely. These colleges give “bachelors” degrees, usually a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or a bachelor of science (B.S.).

Private colleges can be extremely expensive. Students with financial difficulties have access to a well-developed system of financial aid, however, which can dramatically reduce costs through a combination of grants, loans, and work-study programs.

Types of Colleges. The most prestigious colleges in the eastern part of the United States--like Harvard, Princeton and Yale--are known as the “Ivy League” because of the characteristic ivy plants that frequently grow on the sides of their beautiful old buildings. (The term “Ivy League” also refers to the type of people who have traditionally attended such universities, as well as certain clothing styles associated with them.) Other colleges, especially some of the large state schools, are known as football or basketball schools due to their emphasis on athletics. Most colleges are co-educational (“co-ed”), meaning that they accept both men and women, though many single-sex colleges still exist. (The term “a co-ed” refers to a female student at a co-educational college. It is not popular with feminists.)

Colleges and universities with religious affiliations are widely found in America. Some, though not all, give or require religious instruction along with academic subjects. Most major religious groups in America have their own systems of sponsored colleges.


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