american higher educationMany students who are studying English as a second language speak of “going to university” in the United States. However, did you know that a university is only one of several options for higher education? There are several kinds of post-secondary (that means “after high school”) schools that you can study at as an international student. Below, we’ll describe these kinds of schools and give you some examples you can find in the Nashville area.

University – A university is a school of higher education that offers both four-year undergraduate (also called bachelor’s) and graduate (master’s, doctorate, etc.) degrees. They are often, but not always, large schools.

Examples in and around Nashville include Vanderbilt University, Belmont University, Tennessee State University, Lipscomb University, Fisk University, and Middle Tennessee State University.

College – In general, an American college is a school that offers either 2-year associate’s or 4-year undergraduate degrees.

Colleges offering associate’s degrees are often called community colleges because students tend to be from the local community. After studying at one of these schools, a student can continue at another college or university for two more years to earn a bachelor’s degree or go straight into the workforce. Examples in Nashville include Nashville State Community College, Motlow State Community College, and Volunteer State Community College.

A bachelor’s degree from a college is equal to one from a university. Colleges where you can get a bachelor’s degree in Nashville include Aquinas College, Free Will Baptist Bible College, Watkins College of Art, Design, and Film, and O’More College of Design.

A college can also refer to an academic division of a university, such as the College of Education, College of Business, or College of Arts and Sciences. In addition, Americans casually use the word college to refer to any type of post-secondary education, just as people in other countries sometimes use university.

Vocation School – A vocational school, also called a trade school or technical school, focuses on teaching practical skills for a particular career field. Some vocational school focus on one field, such as cosmetology, computers, or auto mechanics, while others offer a variety of fields. Most offer certificates or diplomas for completing a program of study; a few may also offer associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs.

While universities and college require foreign students to have an F-1 visa, vocational schools require an M-1 visa.

Vocational schools in Nashville include Daymar Institute, Nashville Auto Diesel College, and the Tennessee Technology Center.

A few things to note about all these schools:

  • With the exception of vocational schools, all require core classes in a broad range of general subjects, including math, history, science, English literature and composition, and more.
  • Schools may be public or private. This distinction describes how the school is funded, not who may attend as a student. Some private schools are affiliated with a church; others are not.
  • Public schools are generally a less expensive option for U.S. residents who choose a school in their home state.
  • If you are not a U.S. Resident, you must pay the out-of-state tuition rate for any school.
  • Some schools may offer financial aid for international students. Contact the school’s financial aid office to find out.

Students from IEI have gone to many of the schools listed above after improving their English skills with us. Ask a staff member if you want to learn more about a specific school or get in touch with a former IEI student who has studied there.

(Photo credit: moacirpdsp)

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