Education options : Four-year colleges and universities

The number of four-year colleges and universities in the United States is mind boggling, especially when you consider each has its own unique mission and offerings. Breaking these schools down into categories might be the best place to start. Just remember to keep an open mind—you might surprise yourself by finding the right program in an unexpected place.

Public colleges and universities

The distinction between quality, class size and facilities between public and private universities can be quite blurry. It is best to research the particulars of the school you might be interested in. For example, The University of Texas has an endowment of $9.4 billion, more than Penn, Cornell, and Brown combined. UC Berkeley boasts a community that includes 139 Guggenheim fellows, 221 Academy of Arts and Science fellows, 3 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 7 Nobel Laureates.
Many public colleges have fewer than 5,000 students and can feel nearly as intimate as your AmeriCorps or VISTA site. And if you are serving in a state where you'd like to attend school, public colleges come with the added benefit of steep tuition discounts for in-state residents (be sure to check right away on how to gain residency as these regulations can be quite strict). In fact, at many public colleges, your education award will pay for an entire year's tuition.

Bottom line:

So, is a public college the right choice? In short, if you're willing to look around for a program that suits your needs in a size and shape perfectly fitted to you, no doubt there's a public college for you. Some public institutions that have AmeriCorps programs include Portland State University in Oregon and St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

Liberal arts colleges

If you recall high school as a bit stifling, you might be happiest in a liberal arts college, where interactivity in the classroom is the name of the game. Liberal arts schools are known for focusing on critical thinking, providing smaller classes, and producing graduates who are more interested in getting things done than simply just getting paid.
Liberal arts colleges are NOT the schools to attend if you're just hoping to blend in with the crowd. Prepare to be challenged in the way you view the world and to share what you've learned. Liberal arts curricula demand that students express themselves with a mastery of written and verbal skills. Nor is it the place to find the most traditional curriculum and methods.

Bottom line:

So, is a liberal arts college the right choice? If you value classroom discussion, an emphasis on critical thinking, and chance to put your AmeriCorps or VISTA service into an academic context, then a liberal arts college might be the perfect choice.

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