Difference Between College and University

Difference Between College and UniversityHave you ever wondered about the difference between college and university? It seems like the two terms get thrown around interchangeably. 

Can you get a bachelor’s degree at both? Is one better than the other? Is one harder than the other? 

There is lots of confusion about this topic. Read on to find out the differences. Hopefully this post will be able to clear some things up and help you figure out which might be the better fit for you.  and to discover which is the better option for you. 

Are University and College the Same Thing?

Colleges and universities are similar but there are some important differences.  

A college is typically a small institution where students can pursue their undergraduate degree. Bachelor degrees usually take four years. There are also community or junior colleges where students can get a two-year degree.

Universities tend to be a bit bigger and are made up of a bunch of different schools. They often call their individual schools “colleges.” For example, the University of Maryland has a College of Education within it. 

Universities also offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. A student looking to pursue their law or medical degree would be better off applying to university.

While these are the main differences between colleges and universities, there are exceptions. The College of William & Mary in Virginia is technically a college, but they still offer graduate degrees.

A lot of universities have the name college in them despite the fact that they are actually universities. The reason for this is tradition. They began as colleges years ago and want to maintain the same name. Despite the changes they have undergone, like adding graduate programs, they are still called college.

For example, Boston College is actually a university, even though it’s called a college. It originally offered students only undergraduate courses and later added graduate courses.

You should always double check with a college you’re applying to, to make sure you have all the correct facts.

Which is Better, a College or University?

In general, one isn’t better than the other. But, there might be one that is a better fit for you.

If you prefer to study in a place with a wider variety of classes, then university could be a better option for you. Universities offer more levels of study. They are usually bigger institutions with more students.

Difference Between College and University

If you like smaller classes and more interaction with your professors, college could be better.


Before you start looking into schools, make a list of all the things you want in your academic experience. This can help you narrow down your options.

What Makes a College a University?

For a college to become a university, it must meet the following requirements for at least five years:

  • Undergraduate program- The undergraduate program must lead to a bachelor’s degree.
  • Graduate program- Universities must have a graduate program. The graduate program must be separate from the undergraduate program. It must have separate staff and separate admissions. The graduate program must lead to advanced degrees in at least three fields.
  • Finances– Universities must have the financial means to support their graduate programs. They also must have the appropriate facilities for the work performed.
  • Accreditation- Universities must be accredited. This might require having a specific license in some states.

Is Harvard a college or a university?

Difference Between College and UniversityHarvard has both a university and a college. There are differences between the two.

Harvard College is the undergraduate school of Harvard University. It is a four-year program for students looking to get their bachelor’s degree. Harvard College has around 6,800 students enrolled.

Harvard University includes Harvard College. Harvard University also includes ten other graduate and professional schools. All the schools operate separately. They have separate admissions offices, separate teachers, and separate research faculties. The schools together are called Harvard University.

Final Thoughts

A lot of people use the terms university and college interchangeably. Students in the U.S use the word college when talking about a four-year undergraduate program. Students say they’re “going off to college.” They use the word university more when talking about graduate programs.

They both refer to schools at the postsecondary level, but there are some differences. It’s important that you understand the differences. This will allow you to make an informed decision that will meet your needs and expectations.

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