I find it funny how the idea of college is that they are supposed to help establish you as a leader in the free world, to shape your expierences and whatnot with the freedom and opportunities you have, but to get in to a really good school, you are expected to be an established leader during the four years of high school, so that schools want to take you. You work your ass off for four years of your life, only to be overcome with joy or to be drowned in sorrow when those letters come. People fail to realize that those who go to Harvard (example) don't always become the most successful, while those who go to schools without high reputations, can become tremendous influences around the world.

Generally speaking, in the UK college is somewhere you go when you haven't quite reached the grade required for a University level education, but desire to gain a vocational qualification of some sort. These generally span from diplomas in anything from hairdressing to automotive repair.

When I moved to the US I was surprised when people asked me about my college, as I have some degree of pride in going to a University instead of a college, as the former given you a higher quality of education the the latter.

As far as I can remember, the difference between the two is that a University can award degrees, while a college can only award diplomas.
In the case of collegiate universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, a college is an autonomous body which is distinct from the university. As far as the student is concerned, the university provides teaching in the form of lectures and examinations (and lab work etc.) and the college provides accomodation, meals and teaching in the form of supervisions (or tutorials, depending on where you're from.) and possibly examples classes. The university awards your degree.

Cambridge, for example, currently has 31 colleges, and although the prospectus will tell you that they are more alike than different, if you are currently deciding which to apply to here are a few things to consider:

  • Age: ranges from thirteenth to twentieth centuries, and will affect the architecture more than the facilites. Peterhouse is old.
  • Money: some colleges are very, very rich, and this is reflected in the grandure of the buildings, the size of the library and the scholarships and travel grants available. Trinity is rich.
  • Academic stature: usually tied to the above, note that you may be intimidated working in the presence of very gifted people. People from Trinity are also clever bastards.
  • Size: ranges from about 200-1000 undergraduates. Bearing in mind that most of the people you'll socialise with will be from your college, you might want to give this a thought. Corpus Christi is small.
  • Quality of the May Ball: even if you don't want to go, you could make a bit from flogging your tickets. John's has a massive May Ball.
  • Distance from town: Not usually a great factor, although some colleges are a long way from the town centre. Girton is miles away.

Part of a university.

A university can be comprised of many different colleges. For example the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Science can all belong to the same university.

A college teaches one particular profession or many professions related in the same field of study.

Col"lege (?), n. [F. college, L. collegium, fr. collega colleague. See Colleague.]

1.

A collection, body, or society of persons engaged in common pursuits, or having common duties and interests, and sometimes, by charter, peculiar rights and privileges; as, a college of heralds; a college of electors; a college of bishops.

The college of the cardinals. Shak.

Then they made colleges of sufferers; persons who, to secure their inheritance in the world to come, did cut off all their portion in this. Jer. Taylor.

2.

A society of scholars or friends of learning, incorporated for study or instruction, esp. in the higher branches of knowledge; as, the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and many American colleges.

⇒ In France and some other parts of continental Europe, college is used to include schools occupied with rudimentary studies, and receiving children as pupils.

3.

A building, or number of buildings, used by a college.

"The gate of Trinity College."

Macaulay.

4.

Fig.: A community.

[R.]

Thick as the college of the bees in May. Dryden.

College of justice, a term applied in Scotland to the supreme civil courts and their principal officers. -- The sacred college, the college or cardinals at Rome.

 

© Webster 1913.

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