College Advising

So you think you want to go to college, but do you know where? Begin making decisions by deciding which type of institution you want to attend. Short descriptions of the different types of higher education options are listed below. All information within these descriptions were copied from The College Board (2015) Big Future online posting titled "Types of Colleges: The Basics."

After you learn more about these options, log on your SCOIR account to search AND utilize one of the college profile search engines listed under the "College Advising" tab under "College Profiles." Your next step will be digging deeper into your favorite colleges and then applying.

*Photo examples were selected based off of location, type of institution, ranking, or popularity. The photos were not selected in order to promote or exclude specific institutions, and do not reflect any personal or preferential views. These photos are simply used in order to provide a visual or an example of the types of institutions available.


Public colleges are funded by local and state governments and usually offer lower tuition rates than private colleges, especially for students who are residents of the state where a college is located.


Private colleges rely mainly on tuition, fees and private sources of funding. Private donations can sometimes provide generous financial aid packages for students.


Four-year colleges offer four-year programs that lead to a bachelor's degree. These include universities and liberal arts colleges.


Two-year colleges offer programs that last up to two years that lead to a certificate or an associate degree. These include community colleges, vocational-technical colleges & career colleges.


These colleges offer a broad base of courses in the liberal arts, which includes areas such as literature, history, languages, mathematics and life sciences. Most are private and offer four-year programs that lead to a bachelor's degree. These colleges can prepare you for a variety of careers or for graduate study.


Universities often are larger and offer more majors and degree options—bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees—than colleges. Most universities contain several smaller colleges, such as colleges of liberal arts, engineering or health sciences. These colleges can prepare you for a variety of careers or for graduate study.


Community colleges offer two-year associate degrees that prepare you to transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor's degree. They also offer other associate degrees and certificates that focus on preparing you for a certain career. Community colleges are often an affordable option with relatively low tuition.


Vocational-technical and career colleges offer specialized training in a particular industry or career. Possible programs of study include the culinary arts, firefighting, dental hygiene and medical-records technology. These colleges usually offer certificates or associate degrees.

Special Focus colleges

Some colleges focus on a specific interest or student population. These include: Arts colleges, Single-sex colleges, Religiously affiliated colleges, and Specialized-mission colleges.


Art colleges and conservatories focus on the arts. In addition to regular course work, these colleges provide training in areas such as photography, music, theater or fashion design. Most of these colleges offer associate or bachelor's degrees in the fine arts or a specialized field.


All four-year public colleges, and most private colleges, are coed. But there are some private colleges that are specifically for men or for women.


Some private colleges are connected to a religious faith. The connection may be historic only, or it may affect day-to-day student life.


Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) focus on educating African American students. Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) are colleges where at least 25 percent of the full-time undergraduate students are Hispanic. HBCUs and HSIs may offer programs, services and activities targeted to the underrepresented students they serve.