College vs. University: Which Choice Is Best For You?

College vs University

It’s time again to think ahead—about where you’re going and what you plan on doing when you finally graduate from high school. This special section will give you some insight into where to go from here.

Let’s face it. There’s a certain prestige surrounding the fact that you are going away to university, rather than say, your local college―but don’t let the little things cloud your judgment when making one of the most important decisions of your life.

StudentsWhen thinking about post secondary education, you must consider the differences between career or community colleges and universities. A university education offers many broad opportunities and provides security, whereas colleges offer specifically targeted programs that can be completed quickly and are easier to budget for. The deciding factor between university and college should ultimately be a matter of your personality and character.

Finance does come into play when deciding where to go to school. The duration of a university education is a minimum of four years in an honours program, and while this time is often spent gaining knowledge, it is also spent incurring debt. A career college education can be completed in anywhere from eight months to two years, so any accrued debt is minimal. Statistics Canada says the cost of a two-year college diploma is around $21,000 and a four-year university degree costs about $55,000. But what you invest in may pay off later—Stats Canada also says that the average income per year for someone with a university degree is $48,648, whereas with a college diploma you’ll be earning about $32,736. This varies from field to field however, a college-trained chef, for example, on average earns almost 10 percent more than a university-trained one.

A university degree comes attached with a measure of security. It is a prerequisite for many professions. In some fields, like the medical, legal, and business world, a bachelor’s degree must be earned before you move on to a more professional degree. Often those who earn a university degree are firmly focused on one career for the duration of their employment future. While a university education may not give you the practical edge you need in the job market, the academic programs encourage you to broaden your horizons and open your mind to new ideas and critical thinking.

A career college education may be a more practical choice. It also works like a university degree if you know exactly which profession to enter, like photography or aesthetics—professions that require more practical training than academic learning. Other popular professions are freelance trade contractors and small business owners. A diploma from a career college may also be especially beneficial to those who intend to take over or work for a family business; they simply need to receive a background education quickly and cost efficiently.

University and career colleges attract two different types of people. There is no way to compare college versus university in terms of one or the other being the best. When you choose to continue with post-secondary education, you must come to a decision about what you wish to achieve and how you wish to achieve it.
Note: It is okay not to have a set career goal when applying for post-secondary education. You should explore your options and pick and choose what subjects interest you—although changing direction may become costly.

Note: It is okay not to have a set career goal when applying for post-secondary education. You should explore your options and pick and choose what subjects interest you—although changing direction may become costly.


From Faze Magazine Issue #17

13 thoughts on “College vs. University: Which Choice Is Best For You?

  1. stelin Rajanayagam

    Hi I m in grade 11 and one of my worst subjects is math. I want to get into university for example UOIT or York but I am scared if the 2 universities will check my grade 11 math mark.

  2. I am in grade 10 and my dream is to become an anesthesiologist. I took applied courses in grade 9 and did well in it. Now in grade 10 I took academic course and I’m not the best at it. Do I need to take academic course to enter uni. What if I get high 80’s or 90’s in applied coures can. Still get into University. And what is the best medicine college in Canada. I NEED HELP WITH THIS .

    1. christine

      Hi I’m currently in grade 11. To the best of my knowledge, I know to get into any university you need to take either University level courses or Mixed level courses ( an even split between College/Applied and University/Academic level). Also, I’m pretty sure if you want to go into medicine you have to go to university. This year, UofT was ranked the best followed by UBC, then McGill, McMaster, Alberta, etc.

  3. hi, I’m in grade 11 and I need my courses for grade 12 and I don’t know if I want to go to college or university to become a nurse. I need help.

    1. Hi Mitchell, In Canada, to become a Registered Nurse, you must take your Bachelor of Nursing University. This is 4 years. If you go to College to become a Registered Practical Nurse, you will be taking a 2 year course. No matter which decision you make, if you take University level courses, you will have the choice of either. My recommondation is to take University Level in Grade 12.

  4. Challenges in getting a job in my country after school is really a problem. So i am on to just find ways of earning a living as in get a job without facing those challenges after the university. There are people who are done with the university and are still not employed..

  5. I’ve also been to both, McGill University in Montreal and Algonquin College in Ottawa. The difference between the 2 is quite striking. In terms of educational value, you have to keep in mind that university profs make a living out of educating students and spending lots of time doing research. Academia is their profession, they strive for the truth, progression in their field, and to demarcate themselves in a field. I found the educational value to be extremely poor in College. Most profs are doing this as a side thing to get more money, and it is reflected in their attitude and level of care. Most don’t know how to teach the most basic topics in a clear and confident manner for students. I knew of 2 profs in my program that had graduated the year before and were attempting to teach courses, just because they were smart in a given topic. No educational degree, no experience. And we still pay the same tuition as university… not fair.

    That being said, College is more practical and the various Internship positions available make for a student who is more “career” or “work” ready. This is simply due to having “done” more activities hands-on than having learnt a great deal about a topic. It’s a shame that college profs generally don’t take time to teach properly, that’s how the system works I guess. Most of the time, we are sent off to “learn” on our own, which is total BS. We should be learning extra materials on our own, not learning the basic course material on our own every step of the way.

    I’m generalizing of course, and don’t want to take anything away from college profs who care and take time to do it right. Maybe it’s just Algonquin College that’s a bit of a joke. Felt like high-school all over again. University did not feel that way at all.

    University will teach you how to think critically, go outside the box, focusing on lots of theory and some practice. It is a whole new level of education. I learnt tremendous amounts of information at Uni, met some really smart, well-traveled, really motivated people who have all succeeded greatly in life, and came out with a way of thinking that will never be taught in College. Not to mention that the “piece of paper” is definitely something worthy to have in one’s back pocket.

    All this being said, the student who is debating between the two should consider both options carefully. What is your objective? Do you want to go to college just to get a job? Do you want to go to university and learn amazing amounts of info about a topic? Neither is a wrong alternative, it simply depends what you’re looking for. There are fields where both might be a good thing to do. Most fields are pretty clear cut however. Some unis try to teach college topics, and some colleges try to teach uni topics… make sure you know which one is the real expert.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks AMG for your excellent insights into the college vs university debate. Hope everyone reads your comments. Much appreciated!

  6. Mahdyar

    Hi dears.. I am graduated in architecture ,I can work and do jobs related to auto cad,3dmax and Revit applications, I wanna move to Canada on the other hand i don’t know which city is suitable for me. i have two plans, first move to Waterloo and spend courses in college then find a job,but i don’t know about job opportunities in Waterloo. second move to Toronto also spend courses in college and find a job.
    since i don’t know the prices in Toronto and Waterloo and i should find a suitable job so i should rent a studio-flat with minimum cost.
    now what’s your idea about move to Toronto or Waterloo

  7. I have been to both and I agree. University is not always the best route. You spend a lot of your time taking courses that have nothing to do with an actual job. Whereas in College you focus on courses that relate to an actually job and get hands on experience and teacher will real job experience vs professors who have been tenured so long they have no clue about the real world.

  8. I want to know which is better college or university if I want to be a barber

  9. Richard Hsu

    A very interesting and informative article; however, there is no absolute, positive, guarantee that university degree is even generally superior than a college diploma. Most universities have liberal arts and sciences programmes which is nothing more than a glorified high school. Take the first letters of General Arts and Science and you get “GAS”, nothing. If universities were so important and a be-all end-all, do you really think the world would be a better place? Look at the global recessions and mass unemployment, housing bubble and mortgage debts, student debts, financial meltdowns of big cities like Toronto and New York. If I thought university would even guarantee anything in life other than a piece of paper framed in an expensive plaque I would go on to further education. But its not necessarily an absolute promising guarantee.

    Richard Hsu
    BA Degree, York
    12$/hour security guard working part-time/casual basis only


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