School selection can be an overwhelming task for college-bound high school juniors.
There are literally thousands of colleges and universities to choose from in the United States.
Although every educational institution is unique, it is possible to
place most colleges and universities into one of several
broad categories. A helpful first choice in school selection is to understand what these types of institution are and how good a fit they are for your personal preferences and learning style.
Liberal Arts Colleges – Liberal arts colleges are 4-year institutions committed to
providing a broad undergraduate education. Students are required to take a range of courses in the arts, humanities, and sciences outside of their major.
Liberal arts colleges tend to be small, with total enrollment of 1,500 to 8,000.
A close community is a key element of their educational model and they will cut
back on enrollment if they feel the campus population is getting too large. In
addition, many liberal arts colleges are located in rural areas, small towns, or suburbs.
Hamilton, Bryn Mawr,
Haverford, Mount Holyoke,
Bates, Colby, and
Middlebury are just a few of the many excellent liberal
arts colleges in the U.S.
Pluses: Excellent teaching standards. Close contact with faculty
who can serve as mentors and/or recommenders for graduate study. Small,
Minuses: Location may be remote.
Limited range of classes and/or majors. Libraries and other resources
may be limited. Limited dining and residence choices.
Can be expensive.
The Ivy League – Believe it or not, this term was
originally coined to designate a college sports league. Since then, of course,
it has passed into popular use as shorthand for a group of some of the oldest and
most prestigious educational institutions in the U.S. The 8
Ivy League member schools are
University of Pennsylvania
Each of the Ivy
League schools is a unique institution with its own institutional culture and
distinctive educational experience. Prospective applicants should take care to
research each school separately.
Minuses: Highly competitive admissions.
Can be expensive.
Residential Colleges – A residential college is much more than just a university with campus housing. It's a college where students' day-to-day living is part of their educational experience.
The colleges where students reside organize lectures and other learning experiences in addition to social events. This style of living is meant to provide students with a strong sense of community, a chance to interact with a
wide range of other students, and the opportunity to develop close relationships with faculty. Only a small number of U.S. colleges offer a
true residential option. They include
University of Pennsylvania,
University of Virginia,
Rice University, the
University of Wisconsin – Madison, and
Pluses: A close community that leads to life-long friendships.
A stimulating and integrated learning and living
Minuses: Communities may be too
close-knit for some tastes. Limited living, dining, and entertainment choices.
May be expensive.
Honors Programs – Many large colleges and
universities give high-achieving students the option of enrolling in an honors
program. Honors students take small, seminar-style classes
that are more challenging than regular classes on the same topics are and that give them close contact with faculty. They may be asked to complete a
senior thesis or project. At some schools, honors students live in designated
housing and have access to special scholarships and internships.
Pluses: Excellent academics. Close
contact with professors who can serve as mentors and/or
recommenders for graduate study. A chance to produce a thesis or
other capstone project. Honors programs at public
universities often represent an excellent value for
Minuses: Not really a substitute for a
liberal arts college experience, if that's what you have
your heart set on.
Pluses: Excellent academics. Entrée to top graduate programs.
Lively social and sports scenes. A wide range of class choices. Relatively low tuition for state residents.
Minuses: Huge campuses and vast student populations can be easy to get lost in.
Main campuses may be located in isolated rural areas.
Undergraduates are likely to have more contact with
teaching assistants than with faculty. Classes may
involve several hundred students and provide little
opportunity for discussion or feedback.
Land-Grant Universities – These are large public
universities that were originally built on federal land in exchange for a
commitment to educate the public. The primary mission of these universities continues to be public education.
Undergraduate programs will often be balanced by active graduate, continuing education, outreach, and professional programs.
Pluses: Less competitive admissions and relatively low tuition for state residents.
Minuses: Large campuses and classes.
Quality of programs and departments varies.
Music Conservatories and Art Schools – These are
specialized academies that train students in the visual and performing arts.
Some schools (especially those affiliated with a university or a college
consortium) provide the option of a broader liberal arts education in addition
to arts training. Others focus exclusively on developing their students'
artistic talents. Most of these schools require an audition or portfolio as part
of the admissions process. Top schools include the Julliard School, the Eastman
School of Music, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the Rhode Island
School of Design, the Pratt Institute, the School of the Art Institute of
Chicago, and the Yale
Pluses: Outstanding training. Prestige.
Specialized career placement and networking
Minuses: Highly competitive admissions.
Training and/or academic credit may be hard to transfer
to other schools or fields.
Community Colleges and Junior Colleges – These are two-year institutions
that offer Associate of Arts (A.A.) degrees. Most are non-residential 'commuter'
schools. Community colleges typically practice open admissions, meaning that
anyone who meets their minimum standards is guaranteed enrollment. Many offer smaller classes
and a more supportive learning environment than large 4-year institutions do. A
growing number of college-bound high school graduates opt to save money by
completing 2 years of degree study at a community college and then transferring
to a 4-year institution for their junior and senior years.
Pluses: Low-stress admissions.
Inexpensive. Teaching and academic support can be very
Minuses: Class options and
library and lab resources may be limited. Transfers to 4-year institutions
may become more difficult as more people choose this
option. May not be able to transfer all degree credits
to a 4-year institution.
Social life and extracurricular activities may be
AdmissionsConsultants Advantage ensures that you will
maximize your admissions prospects. Take the next step
toward a brighter future. Call us today at 1.800.809.0800 (+1 703.242.5885 outside the US and Canada) or
email us to get