The Difference Between a College and University

College or University - what is the difference?

In a global context, the words "college" and "university" can inspire confusion. Different countries use the same words to name different things. What is usually called a "college" in Europe is really more like the two-year institution called a "Community College" in the U.S.

In the United States, when you ask someone what differentiates the two, the first response is likely to be "not much."

How they're basically the same:

  • While many factors affect the quality of an institution, the same type of Baccalaureate or Bachelor's degrees can be conferred by both colleges and universities.
  • Admission requirements differ according only to selectivity-Highly ranked colleges are often more selective than universities.
  • Both colleges and universities can be either privately or publicly operated.
  • The phrase "going to college" is used to mean attending any university or college in the U.S.

How they generally differ:

  • Colleges tend to be smaller, with smaller class sizes and students receiving more personal attention from faculty.
  • Universities offer Masters and Doctorate degrees-requiring completion of the Bachelors degree first.
  • Universities tend to be larger, with faculty time and attention divided between research and teaching.
  • Some large Universities will have divisions named "The College of Liberal Arts" or the "College of Engineering."

So, what are the benefits of a small "College" like Carleton?

  • Because of Carleton's small size, Carleton students have more opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty on research and special projects than almost anywhere.
  • You'll always be taught by professors at Carleton-not by graduate students. 95 percent of Carleton faculty hold the highest degree in their fields.
  • Carleton classes are small and engaging-the student faculty ratio is 11:1. Your professors will know your name and take an interest in your success.
  • Everyone has the opportunity to be involved in more than a hundred student groups-from athletics to politics to theatre.