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College Options

With over 4,500 Colleges and Universities in the country, students have SO MANY OPTIONS to choose from! But, how do you find the best school for you?

Below are a few comparison charts to help you narrow down your options.




Obtain an Associates of Arts (A.A.) Degree, Associates of Arts (A.A.) to transfer, or Certificate program   Obtain a Bachelors of Arts (B.A) Degree, Bachelors of Science (B.S.) Degree, or graduate degrees (i.e. Masters and/or Doctorates)
Take general education courses   Take general education courses

Take major/minor introductory courses 

(lower division)


Take major/minor introductory courses

(lower division)

Low course fees (approx. $45 per unit)    Take upper division major/minor courses 
Courses are mostly transferable to 4-year schools (students can start as 3rd year students, instead of 1st year students)   High tuition fees (can range from $5,750 for CSUs to $50,000 for private schools)
    Connect with the school, professors, and programs as early as 1st year
    Typically provide more resources and student programs




Smaller campuses & staff   Larger campuses & staff

Offer specific Bachelors degrees

(limited majors)


Offer Bachelors degrees and graduate degrees

(Masters & Doctorates)

More personalized to needs of students   Have multiple colleges/departments
Option to move into universities for further growth and training   Offer professional degree programs (i.e. engineering, medicine, law, etc.)


  Classes are often taught by graduate student instructors or teaching assistants

See charts "Types of Colleges" and "Types of Universities"

Private Institutions


Public Institutions

Smaller enrollment   Larger enrollment
Typically smaller classes   Typically large classes

Funded by tuition and endowment funds (a.k.a. money donated by alumni or other private individuals)

  Funded by the government and tuition fees
Tend to offer less degrees & major options than public schools   Typically have in-state tuition fees and out-of-state tuition fees
More access to professors and support staff   Less direct access to professors and support staff


Career Colleges:

  • Occupation focused schools
  • Job-oriented studies
  • May offer degrees and/or certificates 
  • Take about 2 years to complete

Community Colleges:

  • Offer A.A. degrees and/or certificates 
  • Take about 2 years to complete
  • Can transfer to 4-year schools for Bachelor degree completion
  • Open admissions (only need a High School diploma or G.E.D.)

Liberal Arts Colleges:

  • 4-Year institutions
  • Offer mostly Bachelors degrees
  • Focus on well-rounded general education
  • Offer programs in broad areas (i.e. history, literature, math, life science)
  • Less options for majors
  • Do not offer professional programs (i.e. engineering or medicine)

Application Check Lists

Research-focused universities (like UC):

  • Classes are large
  • Undergraduates are often taught by TAs or Graduate students instead of professors
  • Professors split their time between lectures and research

Teaching-focused (like CSU):

  • Classes are large
  • Professors mostly lecture and interact with undergraduates
  • Less pressure to publish research

To attend any 4-year, students should aim:

  • To follow the A-G requirements when selecting high school courses
  • To get great grades all four years (D's are not accepted by most four year colleges, see your counselor for more info)
  • To take the SAT or ACT at least once (more if appropriate, we recommend to take both Spring of Junior year and the one they do better on do once more at the start of senior year)
  • Be involved and find something you love to do! (clubs, community service, art courses, athletics etc.)

Questions to consider when choosing the best type of school for you:

  1. What are your career goals?
  2. What does your academic record look like?
  3. What's your learning style?
  4. What do you want out of your college experience?
  5. What is your financial situation?

Read a complete guide to the difference in higher education options and what to consider when choosing a school.

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