All articles

The Different Types of Colleges

The Different Types of Colleges


While every college is unique, almost every college fits into a category. Recently, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) put together a list of the most popular types of colleges, and helpful definitions that explain what makes each of these types unique. Here are several types of colleges you should get to know as you narrow down the colleges and universities you’ll be applying for. And remember, you can discover colleges that fit you by creating an account on Cappex. 


Community and Junior Colleges

These colleges offer the first two years of a liberal arts education, as well as career or vocational training. Successful completion of a community or junior college curriculum earns graduates an associates degree. Many students continue on to a four-year institution after completing a community or junior college program.


Historically Black Colleges and Universities 

These colleges originated when African-American students were legally denied access to most other institutions of higher education. Now, these colleges celebrate African-American culture and empowerment, and give black students the chance to experience an educational community in which they are finally part of the majority. A common abbreviation for this type of college is HBCU.


Liberal Arts Colleges

These colleges focus on the education of undergraduate students (students who are earning a bachelors degree). Classes are generally taught by professors who see teaching as their primary responsibility. Because most liberal arts colleges are smaller than universities, classes tend to be smaller and more personal attention  is available. Instead of preparing for a specific career path, students who attend liberal arts colleges are exposed to a broad sampling of classes. In addition, they select at least one area of in-depth study that is their college “major.” Many employers look for graduates of liberal arts programs.


Women’s Colleges

These colleges offer women the opportunity to enjoy a learning community where they are in the majority. Additionally, these colleges have a much larger population of female faculty and administrators. Women’s colleges graduate a high number of science majors, as well as students who continue on to graduate school or professional studies.


Tribal Colleges

Like HBCUs or Women’s colleges, these colleges focus on the needs and education of a group that has been traditionally underrepresented in higher education. In this case, these colleges focus on the education and empowerment of Native American students while celebrating a specific tribe’s unique culture and accomplishments.


Technical Institutes and Professional Schools

These colleges or institutes enroll students who have made a choice as to what career path they are taking. The curriculum at these colleges focuses solely on preparing students for these specific careers. Most of the career options offered at these colleges are in music, fine arts, engineering, or technical sciences.



Universities are generally very large, and include a liberal arts college, as well as colleges focused on preparation for a specific career, like nursing or education. Universities offer a greater range of academic choices than liberal arts colleges, but often also have classes that are very large. It can be more difficult to get to know your professors at a university than at a liberal arts college, but this is not always the case.

Create a free Cappex account to find, finance, and attend the college that’s right for you Get Started Now