The Structure of College-2

The next thing to keep in mind about college structure is that in addition to being part of a major, you will be part of a group of different majors. Now this can get confusing. Let me start by saying that in higher education we talk about going to a college or a university. You are all in college, but you should understand that a 4-year college typically only gives out undergraduate or Bachelor’s degrees, whereas a university also awards graduate degrees (i.e., Master’s and/or Doctoral degrees).

If you are in a 4-year-college the level up from your major will likely be called a “division” and it will include related departments that manage majors. For example, if you are a Chemistry major you may be in the Division of Natural Sciences. This division will likely also include Biology and Physics. The level one up from a division is the 4-year-college itself. Thus the ordering (from smaller to larger): Major Department, Division, and College.

Now if you are in a university, things are a bit different. In addition to the department that that manages your major, you will also be part of one of many colleges. (We know this gets confusing, but the term “college” gets used in these different ways.) These colleges may include Art & Sciences (sometimes called Liberal Arts), Engineering, Business, Education, Agriculture, Architecture, Journalism, Medicine, Law, etc). These colleges are again comprised of related departments that manage majors. To make things more complicated, colleges can sometimes be broken down into the divisions described above. For example, in a College of Arts and Sciences there is often a Division of Natural Sciences, a Division of Humanities, and a Division of Social Sciences, Here is the ordering (from smaller to larger) for a university: Major Department, Division, College, and University.

One big reason why it is important to know all of these distinctions concerning the structure of your particular college or university is that each level often has their own course requirements. However, keep two things in mind about fulfilling requirements: (1) a particular requirement can often be fulfilled by taking one of multiple courses, and (2) even with all of the different requirements you will still have enough electives (i.e., courses not tied to a requirement) to have some freedom in what courses you take.

I hope these last two posts give you a better feel for how things are organized at your particular college or university.

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