The U.S. University System

University System

University System

There are several different types of colleges and universities in the United States where you can earn your degree. A college or university is also referred to as an institution, and it’s important to research which type is right for you.

Types of Institutions

Private institutions

This means that the college or university is not provided with funding from the state in which they are located. They are independent, and as such, have complete control over the allocation of the financial resources they receive.

Public institutions

This means that there is funding being provided from the state and local government that enables this institution to operate.

Research institutions

At research institutions primary emphasis is placed on the development of new knowledge and on the communication of that knowledge to the world.

Teaching institutions

At teaching institutions primary emphasis is placed on the relationship between professor and student. Major research is most certainly conducted, but the focus is more on the learning experience for the student.

Which Is Right for You?

There are outstanding institutions in each of these categories. The ranking of the school is not as important as your interest in the program, the location, funding options and overall compatibility of you and the school and its program. The US ranking of the school has nothing to do with the quality of its academic offerings and the accomplishments of its graduates.

Learning More about U.S. Universities

If possible, visit the campuses of the institutions you are considering to speak with an admission representative and get a better understanding of the program and if you fit with it. In many instances this will not be physically possible. Oftentimes, U.S. colleges and universities will conduct international travel, perhaps hosting an admissions reception or information session near where you live.

Many institutions now offer a “virtual campus tour” on their websites. This is an excellent way for you to familiarize yourself with the campus and the general surroundings of the institution. Marketing and admissions personnel spend quite a bit of time and money preparing these virtual tours. They are usually quite good.

If you know of anyone who is currently attending or who recently graduated from the institution, ask him/her about the campus, location and facilities. Do not hold back on your questions. This is your time, money and investment. You want to know all you can before making decisions on where to apply and enroll.

Search our directory of U.S. degree programs


Dr. Don Martin, Ph.D., is a higher education admissions expert, author, former admissions dean and a current education columnist for U.S. News and World Report. For more information visit