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College Lingo

Colleges that Change Lives (CTCLs): A group of liberal arts colleges that have been

Identified as superbly preparing students for a career, graduate school, or life in general.

Community Colleges: Two-year colleges that award Associate’s degrees. Some students attend a community college before transferring to a four-year college. This option tends to be more affordable, and also helps students who may not be socially or academically ready for a four-year college.

For-Profit Schools: These are run as businesses with the main goal to make money for the owners. They traditionally have lower graduation rates and higher loan default rates. While they might sometimes be the right choice, in general they are best avoided.

Four-Year Colleges: Schools that award a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) or B.S. (Bachelor of Science) degree for completing four years of prescribed course work.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities or HBCUs: Institutions that were founded before the Civil Rights era with the purpose of educating African American students.

Honors Programs/Colleges: These are small schools within a larger school that typically offer smaller class sizes, priority for housing, sometimes dedicated housing, easier access to student research, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities. Most honors colleges have an early deadline, have higher academic qualifications for admittance, and require a supplemental application. Honors colleges do not always mean more difficult classes or coursework, just more intimate with a communal structure of support.

Ivy League: A collection of eight colleges in the Northeast, including Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. Contrary to popular belief, “Ivy League” refers to the athletic conference itself and is not an indication of academic quality.

Institutes of Technology or “Polytechnic” Colleges: Colleges with strong programs in math, science, and engineering. However, they also offer many strong programs in the humanities and other areas of academia.

Liberal Arts Colleges: Typically smaller institutions with few, if any, graduate programs and/or graduate students. Liberal Arts colleges focus on the undergraduate experience and foster a strong sense of community on campus. The traditional core curriculum on liberal arts includes literature, language, history, philosophy, math, psychology, and science.

Midsized Research Universities: Student populations of roughly 3,000 to 8,000. These college fall between large state schools and liberal arts colleges, and usually offer many of the amenities of both.

Private Colleges: Run by non-profit organizations, not by the government. The “sticker price” is usually higher than at state schools, but private colleges often have large endowments that can allow them to offer great scholarships.

Public Colleges (also called state schools): These schools have large student populations of over 10,000 and receive most of their funding from the state government. These institutions offer many opportunities to students across an array of disciplines. They often feature vibrant Greek life, Division 1 sports, and large spacious campuses. They have two different prices: the lower one for students who live in-state, and the higher for students who live out-of-state.

Religiously Affiliated Institutions: Colleges with a religious affiliation, which may or may not be particularly apparent to students day to day.

Service Academies: For those interested in a career in the armed services, these academies will prepare them for a life in the military. These are the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. These academies are free to attend.

Single-Sex Colleges: Colleges with a student population comprising only one gender. While some students worry about not being able to have friends of the opposite sex, there are usually plenty of co-educational opportunities.

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