College vs. University: What is the difference between College and University?

College vs. University: discover their Differences, Similarities, as well as their Pros & Cons. We also will answer some of your frequently asked questions and find which is better.
College vs. University: Differences, Pros & Cons, and which is better?

College vs. University: It is easy to confuse a college and a university, but these educational institutions differ in their scope of functions. A college has lesser program offerings and usually a smaller campus than a university. The college and university difference also lies in the educational research conducted where the latter is more active.

Key Differences & Benefits

SizeSmaller vs. Bigger
DegreeUndergraduate or Associate vs. Master or Ph.D.
FeesAffordable vs. Expensive
Research FacilitiesLess vs. More

Understanding College vs. University definitions for more profound knowledge

What is College?

A college is an educational institution offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in specific disciplines or specialized vocational training. It might or might not be involved in academic research.

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What is a University?

A university is a private or public educational institution offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in several disciplines. It is generally devoted to academic research. 

Considering the similarities between a college and a university

  • Both a college and a university offer undergraduate programs.
  • Students can get jobs based on both a college or a university program.
  • Both have their campuses to deliver educational lectures for the courses they offer.
  • A college and a university can both be private or a public institution.

University vs. College Pros and Cons

University Pros & Cons

Pros of University
  • It offers an array of academic fields to choose from.
  • It has a diverse campus that not only lets you study but also participate in research activities alongside professors.
Cons of University
  • The costly curriculum of a university often makes the students end up in debt.
  • The large class size often makes the students feel lost by not letting them form a healthy student-teacher relationship.

College Pros & Cons

Pros of College
  • Colleges are more focused on teaching than research. It helps students focus more on the subject.
  • Colleges are a more affordable option as the fee structure is just a fraction of what a university charges.
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Cons of College
  • A college rarely has varied courses and requisite resources like a large university.
  • Colleges usually do not offer financial aid to students like large universities do.

How does a college become a university?

To achieve university affiliation, a college must meet specific requirements for a minimum of five years. They are:

  • It must have separate undergraduate and graduate programs and the requisite faculty for it;
  • Its undergraduate programs must lead to graduate degrees, which must further lead to advanced programs in at least three academic fields;
  • It must have sufficient funds to sustain its infrastructure; and
  • It must be accredited and licensed by the state it is situated in. 

What is a good age to start college?

A college program should ideally be started in the thirteenth year of schooling. So, when a student is around 17 or 18, it is time to enroll in college. That said, there is no fixed age to attend a college, and it all depends on when an individual wants to, considering related parameters. 

What is higher than a Ph.D.?

In any field of study, a Ph.D. is considered the highest degree. Beyond this level of education, one might be conferred special status like Doctor of Science (DSc) or Doctor of Letters (DLitt). They are like lifetime achievement awards rather than being regarded as degrees. 

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Is Harvard a college or university?

Harvard is both a college and a university. With its affiliation to Harvard University, Harvard College was founded inside the university campus in 1636. Harvard University encompasses the Harvard College campus along with other affiliated colleges. 

Is University harder than community college?

No, a university is not harder but easier than a community college. This is because a university’s course structure is rather less dynamic and repeats itself over the years, which gives students a guiding light throughout. Contrary to this, community colleges are harder for their dynamic and new courses to make students adapt to the real and changing world. 

Is attending college necessary before joining a university?

No. One can directly join university after high school as universities offer more majors than colleges do. One can earn a bachelor’s, associate’s, or graduate’s degree even at a university. 

Is it OK to graduate at 25?

It is perfectly ok to graduate at 25 than to never graduate at all. As per the Council of Graduate Schools, the average age of a graduate student has been around 33 years for the last few decades.

What is the #1 college in the world?

Like every year, QS World University Rankings has released a list of the best universities in the world in 2020. It has declared the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as the best college in the world. Six important metrics like methodology and reputation, et al. are taken into consideration while deciding the rank.

Is there an average age of a university student?

The average age of a university student has been recorded to be around 23 years over the last few years. 

Looking at the differences between a college and a university in an easy to read manner

SizeCollege is a smaller institution with generally a single campus inside. University is a larger institution encompassing many smaller specialized college campuses.  
Degree typeTraditionally, colleges confer undergraduate or associate degrees. Universities confer masters or Ph.D. degrees. 
Fee StructureOwing to its limited infrastructure and facilities, the fee structure of colleges are affordable. With a huge infrastructure and an array of facilities, universities are quite expensive. 
ResearchWith their limited income from fees and no external grants, colleges are unable to host research facilities.All the money from high fees and state funding helps universities have their dedicated in-house research facilities. 

Comparison Chart

College vs. University: discover their Differences, Similarities, as well as their Pros & Cons. We also will answer some of your frequently asked questions and find which is better.

Comparison Video

University VS College – What’s The Difference? Education Comparison

Is a college better for me or a university?

College or university, which is better? One cannot win over the other. You need to find a college or a university that offers the program suitable for your career goals. For some people, a college is better, while for others – a university, depending on their overall development needs.

Alex Stantor
Alex Stantor

Alex Stantor is a Sorbonne University (Paris, France) graduate in Philosophy and Data Analysis. Currently, he is an Author and Researcher at Difference 101, he writes articles/blog posts on topics such as "thinking differently" and "the importance of difference". Alex is a passionate advocate of diversity in the workplace and in companies, and diversity and inclusion in corporate communications. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

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