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Types of Colleges: Which Schools Should You Consider?

If you’re a student getting ready to apply to college, you may be feeling anxious or overwhelmed at the prospect of finding the perfect school or program for you. 

We at Teensherpa know the feeling, and we want to help you make the best possible decision when building out your college list. To help you get started, here are the main types of colleges you should consider in your search.

Picking the perfect school is hard, but Teensherpa is here to help.

First Things First: Public vs Private Universities

When beginning your college search, you’ll notice that some institutions are publicly funded, while others are privately funded. Each type of college provides slightly different experiences and benefits:

Public Universities

Public universities are funded by local and state governments. They tend to attract students due to their lower tuition rates, especially for students who live in the same state as the college.

Public colleges have larger student populations, so they’re less ideal for someone looking for smaller class sizes and personalized attention from professors and mentors. On the other hand, your typical public college tends to offer a wide range of degrees, organizations, and activities, allowing students to find their own niche or community among the crowd. 

Private Universities

A private college mainly relies on tuition, fees, and other private sources of funding. Private colleges tend to have higher tuition, but they can provide generous financial aid packages to those who apply.

Private universities are a good fit for students looking for a smaller student population, rigorous coursework, and opportunities to connect closely with faculty, whether to deepen their learning or open doors to future career opportunities. 

For the Networker: Research Universities

Are you an extroverted student looking for opportunities to connect with experts in tech, pharmaceuticals, and other large industries? A research university might be the perfect fit for you!

Research universities are large schools (think 10,000 to 40,000 students) providing several higher education programs, from undergraduate degrees to doctorate-level research. For undergrads, this means access to a wide range of majors, professors, and communities. 

Because of the large student population, classes at research universities are often held in lecture halls and taught by professors or graduate students. Still, research universities provide the most networking and recruitment opportunities, giving students the best shot at a career right out of college. 

If you’re someone looking to engage closely with professors or to pursue a graduate program after college, however, you may be better off attending a smaller school with a strong record of graduate placement. 

Some examples of research universities include: University of California schools, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Stanford, Tulane, Boston University, and the University of Chicago.

For the Future Grad Student: Liberal Arts Colleges

Thinking about pursuing a graduate-level program after college? A liberal arts school may be just what you’re looking for. 

While research universities are great for students looking to start their career right after college, liberal arts colleges offer the best chance at grad school placement, outperforming larger universities and even well-known scholarships such as the Fulbright and Rhodes programs. 

Liberal arts colleges are much smaller institutions (around 500-2,000 students), making them the perfect environment for personalized learning. As a liberal arts student, you’ll get to closely interact with faculty, from having discussions in small seminars to potentially coauthoring research with your mentors. 

Moreover, liberal arts colleges are perfect for students looking for a well-rounded academic curriculum. These institutions encourage students to explore a wide range of fields, including history, math, literature, language arts, and more. If you’re unsure about your specific career path, a liberal arts college will give you the opportunity to explore several disciplines, so you can get a better sense of which fields you enjoy more than others. 

Some examples of liberal arts colleges include: Amherst, Swarthmore, Kenyon, Hamilton, Williams, and Wesleyan.

Your future goals play a large part in what type of school you should choose - Teensherpa can guide you.

For the Student on a Budget: Community Colleges

Contrary to popular belief, going to college doesn’t have to be a large, time-consuming expense.

Community college allows you to pursue an associate degree at a relatively low tuition cost, making them a great option for students aiming to save money while pursuing higher education. Community college programs tend to be highly flexible, allowing students to attend school while working or attending to other responsibilities. What’s more, many students will choose to attend community college before transferring to another college and earning a Bachelor’s degree!

For the Hands-On Learner: Vocational-Technical Colleges

Thinking of a career in engineering, business administration, technology, science, design, or the arts? A vocational or technical college may be in your future.

These highly competitive schools tend to be smaller in size (500-3,000 students) and offer intensive training in a specific skill or trade. After two-to-four years at a vocational or technical college, students become highly specialized in their chosen field and have a strong record of graduate school placement. In order to build their craft, however, students don’t get much exposure to other subjects or programs, making these schools less ideal for someone pursuing a well-rounded education.

Some examples of vocational-technical colleges include:

  • Art & Design: RISD, SCAD, North Carolina School of the Arts
  • Performance: Berkelee, Juilliard
  • Engineering: Harvey Mudd, Olin, Cooper Union
  • Business: Babson

For the Community-Oriented Student: Special Interest Colleges

While vocational-technical schools bring together students interested in a similar skill or craft, special interest colleges connect communities of similar demographics or values. If you feel strongly attached to a particular group or belief, you may want to consider schools like:

  • Single-Sex Colleges (e.g. Mount Holyoke, Bryn Marw)
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (e.g. Spelman College, Howard University)
  • Religiously-Affiliated Colleges (e.g. Boston College, Kenyon College)
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions (e.g. Loyola Marymount, Texas A&M)
  • Tribal Colleges and Universities (e.g. Diné College, Navajo Technical College)
Teensherpa can help you plan your college list.

Need help planning your college list? We’re here to help.

We get it!   

Picking the perfect school or program for your higher education can be a daunting task. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone! We will help you build a realistic college list including Super Reach, Reach, Target, and Safety School –– a list that will both reassure you and excite you as a rising junior or senior.

Like the Sherpas of the Himalayas, Teensherpa can help you carry the weight up the seemingly overwhelming “mountain” that is the college admissions and life planning process. 

Contact us today if you’d like to work together. Best of luck in your college search!  


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