Types of US College and Universities
There are many types of colleges and universities in the U.S., and several different ways in which Americans classify them. Classification can be based on whether a school is financially supported by a state or not, the history of a school, how and when it was first established, or how the school primarily functions now. International students–coming from quite different educational educational systems–may be unfamiliar with the ways schools are sometimes classified in the U.S., so here’s some more information :
“Public” Universities :
These are state-affiliated institutions that are publicly-supported (financed by public taxes) and they’re usually large in size. They normally offer all levels of degrees and many different fields of study. Public colleges and universities are relatively inexpensive for residents of the state where the schools are located (since they’re funded in large part by state tax revenues). Foreign students pay “out-of-state” tuition, which is higher, often significantly so.
International students may find it hard to gain admission to these schools at the undergraduate level, because preference is often given to state residents. This is especially true in the fields of engineering, business, and computer science. Many state university systems have a number of different campuses situated all around the state. Sometimes one campus will be be the preeminent one in terms of research and graduate study–this school is sometimes referred to as the “flagship” campus of the system. There are many, many notable public universities across the country–just a few examples: Pennsylvania State University, Ohio State University, the University of California, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Texas.
Small Liberal Arts Colleges :
There are hundreds of small liberal arts colleges throughout the United States enrolling anywhere from fewer than 1,000 students to several thousand. They are usually dedicated primarily to the undergraduate study of the traditional arts and sciences disciplines: humanities, sciences, and social sciences.
Strictly liberal arts colleges are often quite old (by U.S. standards, anyway!) and are usually private schools (meaning they’re supported by tuition fees, private donations, and grants). Many of these colleges were traditionally single-sex (all-men or all-women) but that’s only true these days in a handful of cases, usually exclusively women’s colleges. Sometimes these schools were founded with a religious affiliation, but the overwhelming majority of them don’t take this into account any more in terms of admissions or day-to-day student life.
These colleges are usually highly-rated institutions because they stress small classes, individual attention for their students, and a close relationship between the faculty and students. Many of them also generally have stringent admissions standards. Among these schools are: Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, Bowdoin, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Oberlin, Grinnell, and Pomona College. Where’s the Ivy League, you ask? Read on…
The Ivy League :
Although these schools are among the oldest and most famous in the country, the Ivy League itself was not officially formed until the 1950s–as an athletic conference! Members of the Ivy League are: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania (a private college, not to be confused with Penn State University). All these schools are in the Northeastern U.S. Ivy League colleges stress undergraduate liberal arts education, but they also have noted graduate and professional schools. Tuition at these private schools is among the highest in the country, and admission is generally highly competitive.
Sometimes you’ll find the term “Ivy League” also applied, somewhat inaccurately, to any top-notch private liberal arts college. And despite the cachet of the term “Ivy League,” there are many other colleges and universities, both private and public, that are just as highly rated and as difficult to get into–Stanford being just one example.
Denominational or Religiously-Affiliated Schools :
There are a large number of colleges and universities in the United States that were formed by religious groups and organizations and which continue this active affiliation. They are not limited in admission, however, to members of that religious group, however. They are, however, administered by members of their religious group and are often run in line with their religious precepts. Among well-known schools in this category are: Notre Dame and Georgetown (both Catholic), Brandeis and Yeshiva (Jewish), Brigham Young (Mormon), Southern Methodist University, (Methodist) and Earlham (Quaker).
Technical Institutes :
These are schools specializing primarily in engineering and science and particularly noted for their research and graduate programs. Most international students who attend these schools are admitted at the graduate degree level.
The undergraduate colleges of these schools also offer a variety of liberal arts courses along with their technical subjects. Undergraduates admitted to these schools usually have especially strong backgrounds in math and sciences, as witnessed by grades and standardized test scores (e.g. SAT or GRE). M.I.T. (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Cal Poly (California Polytechnic Institute), Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology), and W.P.I. (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) are a few of the noted schools in this category.