10 Types of Colleges Explained for First Generation Students

Posted by IPFW Admissions Team on 9/15/16 8:30 AM

Applying to college is definitely a process—especially if you’re a first generation college student. What makes that process more of a process? Finding out that there are all kinds of different colleges.

That’s frustrating—not only are you trying tochoose a major, figuring out how to pay for college, and trying to understand the application process, but now you have to choose the type (private, public, vocational, etc.) that is the best fit for you.

As potentially frustrating as that is, it’s also a good thing; it means you have options and can find the institution that serves as a best fit for you and where you want your path to lead.

In the meantime, we can at least help you narrow down the list—here are ten types of colleges you may run across in your application process, explained.


1. Public

Public colleges (like IPFW) are funded by local and state governments and usually have lower tuition rates than private colleges—particularly for students who have been residents of the college’s state long enough to qualify for in-state tuition.

2. Private

Unlike public colleges, private institutions rely on tuition, fees, and private sources of funding like gifts from community or alumni donors—gifts that can feed into sizable financial aid packages and scholarships for students.

3. For-profit

For-profit colleges are just like they sound—they’re colleges with motive to make a profit. They tend to have higher tuition costs (and costs overall), which could mean that you’ll graduate with more debt than you might at a nonprofit institution.

Also, it’s important to know that credits earned at for-profit colleges may not transfer to other colleges, so be sure to check in with the admissions team at your intended transfer college should you opt to change schools.

4. Year-Specific

Two-year and four-year colleges fall into this category and they are (also) exactly how they sound. 

Two-year colleges offer programs that go up to two years and end in a certificate or an associate degree. This includes community colleges, vocational-technical colleges, and career colleges (which we’ll talk about later).

Four-year colleges offer programs that last up to four years and lead to bachelor’s degrees, which include universities and liberal arts colleges.

5. Liberal Arts

These colleges offer a large variety of courses in the liberal arts category (of course)—this includes literature, philosophy, history, foreign languages, mathematics, and life sciences.

Most liberal arts schools are private and their programs are four-year timelines to a bachelor’s degree.

6. Arts

Colleges of the arts add training in a variety of artistic areas to regular coursework—this training can be focused on practices such as photography, music, theatre, animation, or fashion design. Most arts schools offer associate or bachelor’s degrees in the fine arts or a similar specialized field.

7. Community Colleges

Community colleges offer two-year associate degrees, which prepare students to transfer to a four-year college down the line to earn a bachelor’s degree. They also offer associate or certificate programs that focus on preparing you for a specific career if continuing college isn’t part of your game plan. Tuition tends to be lower to attend these colleges.

8. Vocational-technical and Career

These colleges offer specialized training for a particular field, industry, or career you have your heart set on. Possible program options include culinary arts, firefighting, cosmetology, dental hygiene, and more. These colleges normally offer certificates or associate degrees.

9. Special Focus

Colleges with a special focus often touch on a specific interest or a certain type of student population. For example, some colleges may focus on a single sex (all-women or all-men colleges), may have a religious affiliation, or have special missions.

10. University

Universities are often larger and more extensive with program opportunities than your average college, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Most universities actually contain several smaller colleges—for example, IPFW’s education and public policy departments are housed in the (you guessed it!) College of Education and Public Policy.

Dealing with more frustration aside from what type of college you’d like to go to? Find more advice for first generation students (like you!) in our Advice from Admissions post, “ How to Go to College: Your Very First Step | Advice from First-Generation College Students !”

Read more blog posts about Choosing a College

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Topics: Choosing a College





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