The correct answer to this question is different for everyone. Perhaps the best thing to figure out first is what you are aiming for. The type of college you choose will mostly depend on the career path you want to take and whether you want a degree or a certificate. Although we often casually toss these options around as if choosing one were as simple as choosing from a lunch menu, the degree vs. certificate decision should not be taken lightly. Factors that will impact your decision include your field of interest, your grades and the time you are able and willing to commit to being a student.

Ten important things to consider
when choosing a college:

  1. Academics
  2. Financial situation and financial support
  3. Student body and diversity
  4. Area of study and curriculum
  5. Reputation
  6. School size
  7. Location and environment
  8. Career placement success
  9. Resources
  10. Living accommodation

The right path.

Deciding on a career path can be a fascinating self-discovery experience. Start by determining what you would like to do. Think about people you respect and what their professions are and try to identify your strengths. What are your natural talents? What do you love doing? These things will give you a very good indication of what you’ll enjoy doing as a profession.

Degrees vs. Certificates.

A degree is built upon a general education that includes an area of specialization. A degree program includes a variety of academic courses, often referred to as core courses or basics, that are intended to give students a well-rounded education, not necessarily related to your field of interest. This core curriculum includes classes in math, English, humanities, foreign languages, etc. A degree is typically about 120 semester hours. Two-year institutions, which are typically treferred to as community or junior colleges award associate degrees, while four-year colleges and universities award bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

A certificate is more occupational in nature and doesn’t require a broad knowledge base as compared to a degree. Certificate programs are designed to place you at a certain skill level in a field. Many certificate programs may eventually lead to a degree when combined with academic courses. Although as a general rule certificates take less time than regular degrees (there are some exceptions), the individual courses are no less academically challenging than the courses in a degree program. Please note that there is a big difference between being certified and having a certification. Getting a certificate in accounting, for instance, does not make you a Certified Public Accountant. You can get certificates at community or junior colleges and vocational trade schools.

Types of degrees:
  • Associate’s degree
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Master’s degree
  • Doctoral degree
Types of colleges:
  • Four-year and two-year colleges
  • Universities
  • Community colleges
  • Vocational-technical and career colleges