Flexibility in the US Education System

International students often opt to start their academic journey at one type of institution, such as a community college, before transitioning to another institution or academic level. Numerous higher education institutions have established agreements facilitating the transfer of credits earned at a two-year college to a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year university. By customizing their study programs in this manner, students can often achieve cost savings, making it a popular choice among international students.

Is a College and a University a same thing?

In the United States, the terms “college” and “university” are often used interchangeably to describe higher education institutions (HEIs), although they may not always signify the same type of institution. As noted by Shorelight, some institutions are referred to as “institutes” (e.g., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology). Within larger universities, there are typically separate colleges or schools representing various academic disciplines (e.g., College of Engineering, School of Business).

WENR further explains that while there are no standardized definitions for “university” or “college,” a university typically offers bachelor’s programs and at least some master’s programs. Additionally, the designation of “university” may suggest a higher emphasis on research activities and a broader range of postgraduate degrees compared to other types of post-secondary education institutions.

Types of Colleges and Universities in the USA

In the United States, post-secondary education options can be categorized based on their funding sources:

Public Universities: Also known as State universities, these institutions receive funding from the state government. Many are part of a state university system, which consists of multiple public universities within a state. Examples include the State University of New York (SUNY), City University of New York (CUNY), and the University of California (UC).

Community Colleges: Supported by public funding, community colleges primarily offer two-year degree programs, known as associate degrees.

Private Universities: Private universities rely predominantly on tuition fees for revenue, which are often higher than those at public institutions. These universities are often prestigious, with selective admissions criteria. Examples include Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, and Yale University.

Liberal Arts Colleges: These institutions primarily focus on undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, although some may offer graduate programs and vocational subjects such as medicine, business administration, or law.

For-Profit Private Universities and Colleges: Unlike other types of institutions, for-profit universities operate as businesses, aiming to generate profits for their shareholders while also providing education to students.

Application Intakes for Bachelors and Masters Degree

Spring intake(Jan to may)

For several US universities and colleges, the spring intake acts as a backup intake. It starts in January or February to coincide with the first day of classes in the spring. Although less frequent than the Fall intake, the Spring intake offers students the chance to further their academic objectives. Typically, colleges give longer deadlines for applications for the fall intake, which fall between September and November. Compared to the Autumn intake, applicants may have less time to compile their application materials if they are applying for this intake.



Summer Intake(Begins around May)

Summer sessions are provided by a few US colleges, giving students more chances to start their studies. The summer intake offers a shortened academic program and often begins in May or June. Summer admission is less usual for overseas students, however, it can be appropriate for those who want to study more quickly or try out particular courses in the summer. Students should confirm the particular deadlines for their selected universities as the dates for the summer intake vary based on the program and the school.


Fall Intake(September to December)

For overseas students, the most popular and favored admission is in the fall. Usually, it starts in August or September to correspond with the start of the school year. A vast range of academic programs and courses in numerous fields of study are available for this intake. The application period for the Fall intake often closes in March or December, providing students with plenty of time to gather their supporting documents, including essays, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and results from standardized tests.


Scroll to Top