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Types of Colleges

It is important that students and parents understand the many and varied options available in higher education. 

Community Colleges -

There are 116 colleges in the California Community College System and hundreds of additional community colleges throughout the country. They offer two-year associate degrees, professional certificates, and vocational programs. They also offer honors programs and sports opportunities and some offer on-campus housing.  Students can satisfy general education requirements at a low cost before transferring to a four-year college or university. A student interested in taking this path needs to have a plan - meet with an academic advisor and a transfer coordinator at their community college to make sure they are on the right track to transfer.

Learn more: California Community Colleges -

Transfer information at Assist -

Transfer Admission Guarantee information from the University of California:

Public Colleges and Universities in California - 

In California, we have two systems of public higher education in addition to our community colleges.

California State University (CSU) -

A system of 23 member schools (and eight off-campus centers) located throughout the state of California from Humboldt State in the far north, and San Diego State here in San Diego. The schools vary in size (Cal Maritime has just under 1,000 students, and Cal State Fullerton has close to 40,000 students) and selectivity. It is the largest system of higher education in the country.







University of California - (UC) -

UC has nine undergraduate campuses, five medical centers, three national laboratories, and currently, over 280,000 students. Its campuses are located throughout the state, with UC Davis in the north and UCSD in San Diego. To learn more about UC admission requirements and to apply, follow the link above.

Out of State Public Schools 

Just as California has its system of higher education, so do other states. When you hear someone refer to "the flagship," it means the largest or main campus of the system, such as the University of Michigan, the University of Arizona, and the University of Delaware. Not every public school has the state name as part of their name. For example, Rutgers, Auburn, William and Mary, are all public schools. As are lesser-known regional schools, including Bemidji State in Minnesota, Dixie State in St. George, Utah, and James Madison University in Virginia.

As with our own public schools, those out of state vary in size, programs offered, and selectivity. Some out-of-state public schools use the Common Application, some use the Coalition, and some use their own application. Application deadlines and fees vary. Sometimes, out-of-state public schools can cost far more than in-state public schools, although some offer generous merit scholarships. Check out the websites of individual colleges to find details.

Private Colleges and Universities

In California there are 85 independent, non-profit colleges and universities in California ( Many you have doubtless heard of - Stanford, Cal Tech, Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara, the Claremont Colleges, and many others might be less familiar, such as Westmont, Menlo College, and the University of LaVerne.

Nationwide, there are over 1,680 private, non-profit colleges. Again, they range in size and selectivity and have varying name recognition. Just because you may not have heard from a college does not mean it does not offer great programs and might be a good match for you!

Over 900 private colleges use the Common Application; others use their own application or the Coalition Application. Their tuition and fees vary widely - some are generous with merit financial aid, although the more selective the college, the less generous they are, as a rule. The Ivy League colleges and many other highly selective schools, such as Northwestern, offer no merit financial aid. Go to the specific colleges' websites to learn more.

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