College (Latin: collegium) is an educational institution or a constituent part of one.

A college may be a degree-awarding tertiary educational institution, a part of a collegiate or federal university, or an institution offering vocational education.

College Life

Students Speak: What College Social Life Is Really Like

You may be wondering what the social scene will be like at college. In fact, that could be one of the factors in your decision about where to go. Here are some insights from people in the know – current college students.

Question: How is the social life in high school different from the social life in college?

Answer: In terms of meeting new people, it’s easier in college than, say, after switching to a new school in eighth grade. Every college freshman is new to the school, so it’s a lot less awkward to introduce yourself.
– Axel, college freshman

If you live in a dorm, it is like being at a massive sleepover with all your friends, every night. People are just a few doors down and always looking to hang out. Therefore, it takes profound skill to juggle both academics and a social life.
– Riley, college junior

Question: What do you and your friends do in your free time?

Answer: Usually on the weekends, we get together and cook dinner because eating out in the city is expensive. We make a lot of extra food so we all have leftovers throughout the week. Other regular activities we do together include going to concerts, plays and poetry readings.
– Breanna, college freshman

[My college] has a lot of free things to go to, which is essential to the life of a college student. They have Gator Nights with movie showings, popcorn and soda; comedy acts; and even laser tag; and it’s all free.
—Amy, college freshman

We hike, play video games, participate in a lot of random sports around campus and just walk around [the town].
– Stephanie, college freshman

We watch TV. We hit a tennis ball around the grounds with a golf club, keeping track of our scores with targets in mind. We go to a frat party every couple of weeks.
– Jack, college sophomore

Question: Looking back at your first year, what do you wish you’d done differently in terms of your social life?

Answer: What I wish I’d done differently more than anything is hang out with my guy friends more often. … Last year, I hung out more with my girlfriend and a few of her friends … than with all the guys in my hall.
– Jack, college sophomore

I wish that I would have stepped outside of my comfort zone and actively sought out students from diverse backgrounds. I did what felt natural and joined students that shared a similar socioeconomic and cultural background, … [but] I think I could have interacted with [students from different backgrounds] beyond the classroom.
– Medalis, college senior

College majors

The College Major: What It Is and How to Choose One

A major is a specific subject area that students specialize in. Typically, between one-third and one-half of the courses you’ll take in college will be in your major or related to it.

At some colleges, you can even:

  • Major in two fields.
  • Have a major and a minor (a specialization that requires fewer courses than a major).
  • Create your own major.

When to Choose a Major

At most four-year colleges, and in the case of many majors, you won’t have to pick a major until the end of your sophomore year. This gives you plenty of time to check out various subjects and see which ones interest you. Some majors – like areas of engineering – are exceptions to this rule. You have to commit to these fields of study early so you have time to take all the required courses.

If you’re earning a two-year degree, you’ll probably select a major at the start because the program is much shorter.

How to Choose a Major

Take courses in areas that appeal to you, and then think about which subject truly motivates you. Stephanie Balmer, dean of admissions at Dickinson College, suggests you take “classes in which you’re going to be confident, but at the same time, take some risks.” She notes that a class you never planned to take could end up helping you choose your major.

You Can Change Your Mind

If you’re not sure about your college major while you’re in high school, don’t worry. Most students switch their major during college. Even students who think they are sure about what they want to major in often change their mind.

Shawna, a college sophomore, began college as a physics major but switched to electrical engineering. During her first semester, she discovered that college physics “was all the things about my physics class in high school that I didn’t like. And my engineering class was all the stuff I actually did like.”

Majors and Graduate School

Some colleges offer advising programs – such as premed or prelaw – to students who plan on attending medical school, law school or graduate school. These programs are not the same as majors; you still need to pick a major.

College students who are planning to continue their education in professional or graduate programs often choose a major related to their future field. For example, undergraduates in premed programs often major in biology or chemistry. They don’t have to, though – as long as students fulfill the course requirements of the graduate program they want to enter, they can major in any subject they like.

Majors and Professions

If you specialize in something like nursing, accounting or engineering, you’re learning a specific trade. Many majors, however, prepare you to enter a range of careers once you graduate. For many students, picking a college major is not the same as choosing a job. It will be up to you to pick a career path you like. For example, a degree in English literature might lead you to a job in publishing, teaching, advertising, public relations or law, among other fields.

Remember, you’re not alone when choosing a major. Ask academic and peer advisers for help.

Best colleges

The 10 Best Universities in the World Today

University rankings can focus on many different factors, including attractiveness of campus, satisfaction of students and alums, extracurricular benefits (such as top athletics programs), affordability of tuition, and expected income of graduates.

1. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, USA) –

Harvard University is the standard by which all other research universities are measured. No school has ever challenged its position as the world’s premier academic institution in the history of the Shanghai rankings.

2. Stanford University (Stanford, CA, USA) –

With an $18.7 billion endowment Stanford has access to numerous world-class research resources. The school’s 1,189 acre Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve lets scientists study ecosystems first hand. Its 150-foot radio telescope, nicknamed “The Dish,” studies the ionosphere.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Cambridge, MA, USA) –

In the century and a half since its founding in 1861, MIT has become the world’s preeminent science research center. The university is known for a focused approach that uses first-class methodologies to tackle world-class problems. This pragmatic creativity has produced legions of scientists and engineers, as well as 80 Nobel Laureates, 56 National Medal of Science winners, 43 MacArthur Fellows, and 28 National Medal of Technology and Innovation winners.

4. University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley, CA, USA) –

Berkeley is unique among the elite universities of the world. Most of the schools it competes with are privately owned, but Berkeley is a state school-albeit one with the elite status of a private school. The university is nestled in a pleasant city by the same name, within easy commuting distance of San Francisco. With over 36,000 students, Berkeley is also one of the larger elite universities.

5. University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK) –

As one of the oldest universities in the world (founded in 1209), Cambridge is an ancient school steeped in tradition. It is small exaggeration to say the history of western science is built on a cornerstone called Cambridge. The roster of great scientists and mathematicians associated with the university includes Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, James Clerk Maxwell, Augustus De Morgan, Ernest Rutherford, G.H. Hardy, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Alan Turing, Francis Crick, James Watson, Roger Penrose, and Stephen Hawking. Whether speaking of the unifying ideas in physics, the foundations of computer science, or the codifying of biology, Cambridge has been at the forefront of humanity’s quest for truth longer than most nations have existed.

6. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ, USA) –

Princeton University is one of the oldest, most historic universities in the United States. Its famous Nassau Hall (right) still bears a cannonball scar from the 1777 Battle of Princeton, and its former president, John Witherspoon, was the only University president to sign the Declaration of Independence. The school’s nearly three-century history has given it ample time to develop an impressive $18.2 billion endowment. But unlike the other big institutions it competes with-such as Yale, Harvard, and Stanford-Princeton spreads its considerable wealth across a far smaller number of students and programs.

7. California Institute of Technology (Caltech) (Pasadena, CA, USA) –

Any school can assign a textbook for you to read on your own, but research universities pride themselves on giving you the opportunity to work alongside leaders in their respective fields who write the textbooks. Of course, in order to do this efficiently a school needs a decent student/faculty ratio. Few schools can beat Caltech’s three-to-one ratio-which is one of the many reasons why this relatively young school has risen to international prominence.

8. Columbia University (New York, NY, USA) –

As one of the colonial colleges and the fifth-oldest school in the United States, Columbia has a lot of history. That history has created an internationally recognized, elite university with an $8.2 billion endowment and a library containing nearly 13 million volumes. Columbia University is spread across five distinct campuses in New York City, including Columbia College, the undergraduate division. In 2013, 26,376 students applied for 1,751 admittances to Columbia College.

9. University of Chicago (Chicago, IL, USA) –

The University of Chicago was only founded in 1890, making it one of the youngest elite universities in the world. But despite its youth, the school has spearheaded many of the world’s most important scientific achievements. It was here that Italian physicist Enrico Fermi created the world’s first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in 1942. It was likewise at Chicago that Stanley Miller and Harold Urey demonstrated in 1952 that amino acids essential to life could be produced starting from simple molecules such as methane and ammonia, thus founding the entire field of what has come to be known as “origin of life” research. Today, the university is one of the leading universities building on the work of its famous alum, James Watson, in the exploration of the human genome.

10. Oxford University (Oxford, UK) –

Oxford University traces its origins back to the 13th century. With its intellectual roots firmly planted in medieval scholasticism, Oxford has survived the centuries, adapted to the times, and grown into what it is today-one of the world’s most impressive centers of learning. Perhaps more than any other school in the world, Oxford’s name has become synonymous with knowledge and learning. This is because the school runs the world’s largest-and arguably most prestigious-academic press, with offices in over 50 countries.

College advice

4 New Year’s Resolutions for College-Bound High School Students

Whether you’re a high school freshman or senior, resolve to prep for college admission now.

The college admissions process is both a summation of four years of high school and a fresh start. No matter your current year in high school, you can take steps to ready yourself.

In the spirit of the new year approaching, here are four resolutions – one for each year of high school – to help students plan ahead.

• Freshmen: “I will set college admissions goals now, rather than waiting until I’m a junior.”

College and its complex admissions process can seem impossibly far away when you have just begun high school. Your future, however, will be built on the foundation you lay out today. Begin determining your college goals now.

Starting now doesn’t mean that you have to set your entire trajectory immediately – during the next four years, you will discover new interests and new priorities that will partially shape your path. Rather, your college admissions goals can include general timelines for the next several years.

The next three resolutions are great goals to start with. For example, you might decide to complete your admissions testing early in your junior year. Another goal might be to begin building a list of interesting colleges and universities now, so that you will have a short list ready by junior year.

Other goals could include developing a well-stocked admissions portfolio on a platform like the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success or in another centralized location for gathering documents relevant to college applications.

• Sophomores: “I will develop an ACT and SAT testing plan now – not as a junior.”

It is no secret that the ACT and SAT are critical to admissions success. But many students wait until they receive a disappointing result to dive into test prep.

You do not necessarily need an intensive study plan as a sophomore, but you should know where you stand. Discover which test best suits your goals and strengths.

Commit to taking the PreACT or the PSAT, if possible. At the very least, complete a practice exam to get an estimate of your future score and to identify areas of improvement.

Don’t stress unduly over the result – you still have a great deal of learning to do.

However, do map out a schedule of practice tests to measure your progress. These are especially valuable since testing can be an effective way to build your knowledge in addition to studying.

• Juniors: “I will begin my college applications two months earlier than I believe I should.”

You might be tempted to set aside a single month or even two for college applications. Entrance exams have specific dates, you have to wait for your recommenders to send you their letters of recommendation and your high school releases transcripts on a set schedule.

That just leaves you to write your college essay – how long could it possibly take to write a few paragraphs?

The reality is that great applications take time. Your personal statement will require reflection and revision, and it will likely benefit from the input of trusted mentors and guardians or parents. Letters of recommendation can take time to acquire, since the authors are often busy with multiple letters to write – so it’s best not to wait until the last minute.

In short, you’ll need to start earlier than you expect to. This will allow you to gather your materials with time to spare for revisions or unexpected complications.

• Seniors: “I will remember that admissions decisions do not solely determine my intelligence or future.”

Although the first resolution encouraged you to begin preparing for college as a freshman, it’s important to also understand that this focus should not define you.

Remember that college admissions is an intensely competitive process. Your GPA, test scores and a small slice of your life are weighed for admission – you may feel like there are more things you wanted to accomplish.

Ultimately, this is early in your life and you have many more opportunities ahead of you, wherever you end up attending school.

Remember, too, that no one best school is out there – there are hundreds of excellent colleges and universities, and many of them will provide you with excellent opportunities to learn and grow.

Above all, remember that college is one part of a journey. Yes, you can begin preparing as a high school freshman, but the story continues well past your graduation date. Spread out the work and keep moving forward toward your goals and dreams.