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Types of Schools

By Kay Peterson, Ph.D.

June 04, 2008

Are you interested in training to enter a trade, or do you want to pursue a broader academic path? Do you want to study with leading researchers, or with professors who focus on teaching? The kind of school you choose will help you pursue the course of study that suits you best.

Vocational Training School

Description:

* Offers a more focused and practically oriented learning experience (examples: paralegal training programs, automotive training and cosmetology programs).

* Privately owned and operated.

Degrees Conferred:

* Usually confers a certificate indicating the student’s mastery of the training course (varies depending on the field).

Benefits:

* Offers a concentrated curriculum in preparation for a specific career.

* Shorter program length.

* Vocational training schools offer you an excellent opportunity to gain practical experience to prepare you for the work world.

Things to Consider:

* The quality of the course can vary widely; ask about the school’s accreditation and reputation.

* There are fewer opportunities for financial aid (some schools may offer assistance).

* The tightly focused curriculum prepares the student for a career, but doesn’t offer a broad academic education.

Community College or Junior College

Description:

* Offers a two-year study program (typically a general education program or specialized job training program).

* Often serves part-time students (may offer flexible evening and weekend classes).

* Frequently offers specialized job training.

Degrees Conferred:

* Associate’s degree.

Benefits:

* Can provide a good transition from high school to a four-year college.

* Much more affordable than a four-year college.

* Students can save money by fulfilling general education requirements at a junior college and then transferring to a four-year college to complete a major.

Things to Consider:

* Make sure that your credits will transfer if you are planning to finish your degree at a four-year school.

* Some community and junior college campuses can lack a sense of community since students are not affiliated with the school for an extended period or on a full-time basis.

* At a community college, many professors will be part-time instructors who may not be able to devote as much time outside of class working with students.

Four-year College or University

Description:

* Offers a full four-year program, including a general education requirement in addition to a major course of study.

* The emphasis is on broad intellectual development.

Degrees Conferred:

* Bachelor’s degree.

* Universities also offer graduate programs (master’s degree, doctorate, professional degrees).

Benefits:

* Generally provides an extensive and stable intellectual community for students.

* Broader curriculum encourages and accommodates a variety of interests.

* Bachelor’s degree can be valuable in the job market.

Things to Consider:

* Depending on the school you choose (see below), a four-year school can be expensive.

* The course of study is lengthy; it’s easy to lose motivation.

* Courses may or may not prepare the student to enter a career.

When you’re making your choice, think about whether you want to attend a private or public college.

Public

* Tuition Costs: Public schools are subsidized by the state; as a result, tuition can be quite reasonable.

* But Keep in Mind… Tuition for out-of-state students is typically much higher. After a year of residency, the student may be eligible for in-state tuition.

Private

* Tuition Costs: Private schools are funded through endowments, tuition payments and donations; tuition is frequently much more costly.

* But Keep in Mind… Private schools often offer more opportunities for receiving financial aid, which can make the cost of attendance much more manageable.


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