The Difference Between A College & A University

When you are right out of high school or had a gap year and now think of studying, you don’t know where to go, is it university or college? This article here to help you decide and kill the misconceptions you’ve heard in the past about these two options of tertiary education.


Universities are adventurous for those who want to take a critical look at their field of study. Universities  provide you with in-depth information and complete theoretical background of your chosen degree. You will be tested on your ability to study the theory and write tests and exams in order to obtain your degree. This is sometimes a disadvantage when you go into the workforce; some universities provide brief practical experience for courses such as medicine, accounting and engineering etc. But if your course does not offer any practical experience, check with your lecturer as universities do have relationships with companies that can offer you experience through internships.

There are other points to focus on when you want to go to a university, one of them being cost and schedules. University is much more expensive in comparison with colleges. You can pay about R 23 000+ per annum to be at a university, this does not include your accommodation, textbooks or your daily meal. At a university a course normally takes about three to four years.

Remember if you are a student at a university, you have to make your own schedule.  On some days you will have four hours of class and on others you will have a free day. This is where prioritization kicks in and time management. Because of the study load that is at university you need to spend most of your time studying the work and preparing for the next class. Not to mention the extra tasks, tests, socializing or getting a part time job to pay your way forward.


In you are eager to get into the work force, but don’t have any practical experience of the work then college is the place for you. Colleges spend most of their time teaching students about how to do it in practice more than how to do it in theory. This is advantageous for a student that would like to get into the market and climb the managerial workforce ladder quickly. Some students might wish that they had a more in-depth/theory angle of the work that they do, but this is where it is up to you to ask your fellow managers and learn the theory from a practical angle.

When it comes to colleges the cost is not as expensive as universities, the duration of your studies is also not that long as a university course. This can be for about six months up to three years. So in college you are looking at about R 8 000 per annum. This does not include text books and accommodation so you will need to seek/raise funds to help you.

The workload of a college is much like a high school, but you have a tight schedule as you are in class from 8am to 4pm daily. This means that have class most of the day and them spent time studying. You might think that this is way too much of your time that you have to spend studying, but as my boarding master told me in matric: “If you have a dream you will be a slave to education”. In this I can boldly say that I oppose Es’ Kia Mphahlele words in a ‘Man Must Live’ when he wrote “… if so much of life could be learned out of books, as his teacher had often impressed upon his mind, then practical problems of life could surely teach him a hundred times more than book”.


By Thabo Ledimo

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