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Jill Nicholson 11/22/2005 Listing Essay
American Colleges

Every year, millions of students apply to colleges. How can a student make the best choice? If you are trying to decide which college to go to, it helps to know what options are available to you. Depending on your educational and occupational goals and requirements, you may decide on a community college, a (regular) college or a university.

A community college is sometimes called a junior college; they are the same thing. They offer many low-cost, non-credit classes to the community, various job training or certificate programs, as well as adult basic education classes such as GED preparation and English as a Second Language classes. In addition, they also offer two years (freshman and sophomore) of regular college credit classes, which can lead to an A.A., an Associateís of Arts degree. A student can stop with the two-year Associateís degree, the most basic of college degrees, or transfer to a regular four-year college for the last two years (junior and senior). Some reasons for attending a community college first include cost, class size and admissions requirements. Community colleges offer classes mornings, afternoons and nights, sometimes even on weekends, to accommodate their students, many of whom work and have family responsibilities. Because community colleges serve students primarily from the immediate community, they usually do not offer student housing, like dormitories.

If a student who has finished her freshman and sophomore years at a community college then completes her junior and senior year requirements at a regular college, she will receive a Bachelorís degree, the standard four-year college degree, from that college. This ďundergraduateĒ degree can be a B.A., or Bachelor of Arts, or a B.S., a Bachelor of Science, depending on the major field of study. Of course a student can attend all four years at the same 4-year college instead of only the last two. If tuition and other college expenses are not an issue, and if the student can gain admission to a more selective 4-year college right out of high school, he may decide to go directly to the regular college starting his freshman year. Many undergraduate students choose a college far from home, maybe even on the other side of the country. Most live in dormitories or other student housing near campus, so that they can experience college life to the fullest.

Many professional jobs today require more than a Bachelorís degree: they require a Masterís degree (M.A. or M.S.) or even a Ph.D. A university is the place for these graduate degrees, so a university is a college that, in addition to conferring Bachelorís degrees, also awards Masterís degrees, and in some cases Doctorates (Ph.D.s). Generally, graduate studies leading to a Masterís degree take two years. A Doctorate can take an additional two years or more beyond the Masterís. A professional degree, such as an M.D. for a physician, can take even longer.

So, depending on your career plans, you may spend as few as two years, and as many as eight years, in college. Donít let that stop you! The years will pass whether youíre in college or notóthe difference will be whether you have a college degree after those yearsóor not.

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