Educational Options

"College" vs. "University"
The terms are often used interchangeably, but in some instances(though not all) universities may have a higher level of accreditation or status assigned by the state. In addition, many universities are made up of several smaller colleges. For example, Appalachian State University contains the Reich College of Education, Walker College of Business and several others.

2-Year vs. 4-Year
Most 2-year institutions are either community colleges, junior colleges, technical or trade schools - most of which offer training programs, specialized certifications and/or 2-year associate's degrees.4-year institutions offer a wider range of programs/degrees and tend to focus on liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs.Although 2-year schools have historically served more non-traditional students (over age 22), the 18-22 population is quickly growing due to affordability issues and other factors.

Students who attend a NC community college and complete the general education core of courses can transfer to a 4-year university to complete their degree. Additionally, community college students in NC are assured admission to at least one of the 16 public institutions in NC with the following stipulations:

  • Admission is not assured to a specific campus or specific program or major
  • Students must have graduated from a NC community college with an A.A. or A.S. degree
  • Students must have an overall GPA of at least 2.0 on a 4.0 scale, as calculated by the college from which they graduated, and a grade of "C" or better in all Comprehensive Articulation Agreement (CAA) courses
  • Students must be academically eligible for re-admission to the last institution attended
  • Students must meet judicial requirements of the institution to which they applied
  • Students must meet all application requirements at the receiving institution including the submission of all required documentation by stated deadlines. You can access more information about the Community College Transfer Program here.

Public vs. Private
Most public institutions are founded and funded by the state,the latter of which lowers tuition prices. Since private institutions do not receive state funding, they often rely on tuition and donations to fund their services, pay their faculty, etc. This means tuition is often higher than at a public university.

However, just because the "sticker price" is higher at a private school doesn't mean you will necessarily pay that amount. Many private schools are able to offer attractive financial aid packages, sometimes making the actual costs lower than what you would pay at some public schools. Click here for more on sticker price versus affordability.

Nonprofit Institutions vs. For-Profit/Proprietary Institutions
The money that nonprofit schools bring in often stays at the college to pay faculty, run the school and improve their services. The money that for-profit schools bring in goes to shareholders or investors who expect to make money in addition to educating students. As a result, for-profits are typically more expensive than their nonprofit counterparts.

For-profit schools are run more like businesses and often lease meeting spaces for classes instead of building traditional college campuses. For-profit schools tend to offer career-based programs for specific trades rather than a broad liberal arts/sciences education.They also tend to attract more non-traditional and adult students due to their flexible scheduling and the types of programs they offer.For-profits also tend to focus exclusively on academics and do not typically include social or cultural aspects such as athletics, clubs,dorms, meals, support services, social gatherings, study abroad,technology, health care, etc.

Types of Degrees Most Commonly Earned

  • Associate's - 2-year undergraduate degree awarded at community colleges, junior colleges, technical and trade schools, colleges and universities. Associate's degrees are usually required for jobs such as dental hygienist, commercial pilot, electrical repairer, air traffic controller, construction manager, physical therapy assistants, etc.
  • Bachelor's - 4-year undergraduate degree awarded at colleges and universities. Although considered "4-year," bachelor's degrees can take anywhere from 3-6 years to complete. A bachelor's degree is widely considered to be the minimum educational requirement for many of today's careers. Upon graduation, the official degree will state that a student is a "bachelor of _______ (field) in ______ (major)" such as a "bachelor of science in business administration" or "bachelor of music in ethnomusicology."
  • Master's - typically 1-6 years of graduate work (most commonly 2-3 years). Awarded to students who have completed graduate work beyond the bachelor's level in a field of higher study. Jobs that require at least a master's degree include college professor, school counselor, textbook authors, organizational psychologist, audiologist, mental health counselor, occupational therapist, physician's assistant and financial analyst.
  • Doctoral - typically 3-6 years or more of graduate work. Awarded to students who have completed the highest level of education in a specific field and qualifies the student to teach at the university level in most cases. Examples include Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Juris Doctor (J.D.), Doctor of Ministry (D.Min).

General College Planning Websites

  • Naviance - Pine Lake's college planning hub. Parents can access Naviance through their child's username and password.
  • College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC)
  • CollegeWeekLive - Enables students to chat live with admissions representatives and students from hundreds of US universities and to watch presentations from education experts on topics such as mastering the SATs/ACTs, writing a standout college essay, choosing a college, and more!
  • Parents' Guide to College Planning
  • Peterson's - step-by-step timelines, college matching and searching, how to choose, how to get in and how to pay
  • Mytonomy - Video library of over 3,000 videos from current college students, admissions reps, and professors who give advice about various aspects of the college planning process
  • Collegeology - Online games that create playful ways to understand the systems essential to accessing higher education. Provides a safe environment to learn and experiment with higher education strategies and choices before it really counts. Great for high school and middle school students.
  • GetSchooled - college planning site aimed at youth. Games, polls, videos, and more.
  • MappingYourFuture - career exploration tool "CareerShip," self- and interest-assessment tools, PowerWallet financial literacy for teens, and tools for helping teens develop a career plan
  • College Navigator - Great site for finding general information on a variety of institutions. Allows you to search for schools based on a variety of criteria you set.
  • EduTrek - Database of thousands of institutions and programs, including career-oriented trade and technical schools, certification programs and not-so-well-known schools. Students can search for schools by state, degree, and subject. Also includes a matching engine that will return a lists of school that match your needs.

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