College Choices


College Choices
By Linda O’Brien

Learn about your college choices so that you can figure out what kind of college is going to be right for you!

When people say they are “going to college”, they usually mean they’re going to a two-year college for one or two years, or that they’re going to a four-year college.

Two-Year College

Community colleges, technical college, and junior colleges are all two-year colleges. These colleges have one and two-year programs designed to prepare students for a career. Students can also start at a two-year college, and transfer to a four-year college.

Community and Technical Colleges are Very Affordable

It costs about half as much to attend a community or public technical college as it does to attend a four-year college. Junior colleges are privately owned, so they’re usually more expensive than technical and community colleges.

Classes are Small

Two-year colleges keep their classes small, and they often hire instructors who have worked in a related field. The law enforcement instructor may, for example, be a retired police officer.

All High School Graduates are Welcome

Any high school graduate can go to a two-year college. Some two-year programs, however, have specific academic requirements. The nursing program, for example, may require that students have a year of biology, chemistry, and algebra before they apply.

Two-Year Colleges Offer Career Programs

Students in one and two-year programs spend most of their time taking the courses they need to prepare them for a specific career. Business students take mostly business classes; engineering technology students take mostly math and engineering courses.

Students who finish a two-year program earn an associate degree. Those who finish shorter programs get a diploma or certificate.

Below are some of the careers that you can prepare for by going to a two-year college. If you’d like to learn more about any of these careers, go to www.bls.gov/oco



Industrial engineering technology

Architectural technology

Interior design



Automotive technology

Law enforcement

Business administration

Legal assisting/paralegal

Business management


Civil engineering technology

Mechanical engineering tech

Computer information systems

Medical administrative assisting

Court reporting

Medical lab technology

Dental assisting/dental hygiene


Desktop publishing


Dietetics and nutrition

Occupational therapy assistant


Office information systems

Early childhood education

Physical therapy assistant

Electronics engineering technology

Radiology technology

Emergency medical technology

Real estate management

Fashion merchandising

Respiratory therapy

Financial management

Surgical technology

Fire science technology

Tool and die technology

Hospitality management

Travel and tourism

Students Can Transfer to a Four-year College

Students who aren’t ready to attend a four-year college can start at a two-year college, and then transfer to a four-year college. Many students also start at a community or public technical college and then transfer, in order to save money.


Four-Year College

A four-year college education, or bachelor’s degree, can open doors, provide status, and prepare you for a financially rewarding career. Because there are so many different colleges, and so many things to consider, it’s important to learn as much as you can about your college choices.


Some Four-Year Colleges are Public and Some are Private

Public colleges are usually larger than private colleges. They can, therefore, offer more majors and more programs. Public colleges are supported by tax dollars, so they’re also less expensive than private colleges, on the other hand, usually have smaller classes and they offer a personal atmosphere. Because of their many offerings and their more affordable prices, most students attend public colleges.

Colleges Want Students Who are Academically Prepared

Colleges want students who are ready for college-level work. Colleges, therefore, recommend that students take as many college prep courses in high school as possible (advanced math and science, foreign language, etc.).

Four-Year Colleges Have Requirements for Admission

College entrance requirements vary greatly. Some colleges accept almost all of the students who apply. Other colleges only accept students who have excellent grades and very high test scores. Students need to find a college that’s going to be a good academic fit for them.

Four-Year College Can be Expensive

It costs about $13,000 a year to go to a public four-year college and live on campus. It costs about $29,000 a year to live on campus and go to a private college. While a four-year college education can be expensive, there are ways to make it affordable.

Four-Year Colleges Offer a Wide Variety of Majors

College students choose one subject that they want to focus on and study in-depth. This is their major. About half of a student’s courses will be in his/her major; the rest will be a combination of required general education courses (English, math, science, etc.) and electives (other courses a student wants to take).

Below is a list of popular college majors. It is important to choose a major that you’re going to enjoy, because you’ll be taking a lot of classes in that subject area. If you don’t know what to major in, don’t worry. Many students go to college “undecided”, and over half of all college students change their major at least once.

If you’d like to learn about any of the majors below, go to www.princetonreview.com/college/research/majors.






Fine arts




Physical education

Art education


Physical therapy

Art history





Political science




Business administration

Home economics


Chemical engineering

Information sciences



International relations

Public relations

Civil engineering





Secondary education

Computer science

Management information systems

Social work

Criminal justice







Mechanical engineering

Special education



Speech pathology

Electrical engineering

Music education

Urban studies

Elementary education

Music performance

Wildlife management




Environmental studies

Occupational therapy



Other Educational Choices

Students who want to prepare for a specific career have some additional options to consider. If you’d like more information on any of these options, see your school counselor.

Specialized Colleges

Specialized colleges have a very limited number of programs. Art colleges, nursing colleges, and business colleges are all examples of specialized colleges. The cost for these colleges and the length of their programs vary, depending on the program and the school.

Career and Trade Schools

Career and trade schools offer short-term training programs in a wide variety of career fields (e.g. auto body technology, cosmetology, dental assisting, welding). While some programs last only a few weeks, others take up to two years to complete.

Although these schools can be expensive, their costs vary, depending on the type and length of the program. Credits form these schools generally cannot be transferred to another college.


Students who prefer a hands-on approach to learning may want to consider an apprenticeship program. Apprentices learn their trade through a combination of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Apprenticeship programs are, however, often difficult to get into.

The Military

The military offers free job training in over 2,000 job specialties (e.g. mechanic, computer technician, paramedic). Enlistees can also take college classes while they are in the military.