“Colleges” and “universities” are different types of US schools.

Want to attend a university in the US? Or a college in the US?

Or maybe a college that is a part of a US university?

It’s not as confusing as it sounds– we promise! Yes, “college” and “university” often are used interchangeably, but the two words do have slightly different meanings.

Universities in the US

Universities in the US usually have more options for majors and college course offerings. They also offer post-graduate degrees, such as master’s degrees and doctoral degrees.

In many cases, universities in the US also have more students than colleges.

Colleges in the US

In addition to 4-year US colleges, students can also choose from other types of specialized colleges. These include:

Students usually attend these colleges for a shorter amount of time (generally two years) and earn a different college degree (such as an associate’s degree).
In general conversation, these types of colleges are never referred to as “universities.”

Colleges in US Universities

This is where it can get a bit tricky.

Many universities in the US split their students into colleges based on their college major. So you may actually attend a college and a university at the same time!

For example, math majors at Ohio State University are also members of the university’s Colleges of the Arts and Sciences.

Colleges and Universities in the US: When They Are the Same

Students at universities in the US and many colleges in the US can earn a 4-year BA or BS degree. In conversation, many people in the US use college and university interchangeably.

One person may ask you which “college” you are attending. Another may ask which “university.” You can answer both questions with Swarthmore College, New York University or whatever college or university you are attending.

The name of your college or university isn’t as important as the school’s ability to meet your educational needs.

Whether you decide to attend a professional institute, college or university in the United States, make sure it is accredited, has classes in your field and will make you feel happy and at home.