Attending a college or university is also known as “getting a higher education”, which means, education after high school.
Americans frequently use the word “college” when they talk about undergraduate studies. In reality, there is a difference between a college and a university, but you might find them both in the same place!
You may hear a conversation like this:
Colleges typically offer 2-year associate’s degrees or 4-year bachelor’s degrees. These are also called “undergraduate degrees”.
An undergraduate is a college student who is earning one of these higher education degrees. Some students who attend a 2-year college will transfer to a 4-year college to complete their 3rd and 4th years of study.
Universities offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Graduate degrees include Master’s and doctorate (PhD). A university campus will have many “schools” which specialize in different subject areas, like business or medicine. These schools may or may not be located on the main campus or even in the same city!
Graduate or “grad” students have already earned an undergraduate degree and are continuing their specialized education, which often includes doing and publishing research. Master’s degrees typically require an additional 2 years, and the average PhD requires an additional 8 years of study!
Undergraduates are often referred to by names based on their year of school: 1st year = freshman, 2nd year = sophomore, 3rd year = junior, 4th year = senior American high schools also use this naming system.