The Four-Year Undergraduate College or University
The four-year undergraduate college is the nucleus from which all institutions of higher learning in the United States have developed. Undergraduates usually are admitted to the institution, not to a department or program, and choose their major academic field after one or two years of general education. These courses are in the fields of the humanities and arts, social sciences, and physical and natural sciences. Students normally must study in all three areas on the assumption that such broad exposure will prepare them for lifelong learning and provide a foundation for specialized study in their “major.” The students’ last two or three years are devoted to more specialized study in their chosen major field.
A university is made up of a group of schools or faculties, and usually includes several undergraduate colleges (such as arts and sciences, or professional programs such as engineering or business), graduate schools (which sometimes are part of a single school combined with undergraduate programs), and professional (postbaccalaureate) schools. The undergraduate curriculum usually includes two years of liberal arts study and two years of intense concentration in a major area.
Some technological and professional programs, such as agriculture, business administration, engineering, nursing, and teaching, are offered at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Other professions, such as medicine, dentistry, and law are studied only at the graduate level (with preparatory programs available at the undergraduate level). In addition to bachelor’s degrees, universities also offer master’s degrees, and most offer doctorates. Research universities are those with a major emphasis on research and graduate education at the doctoral level. (Refer to Figures 2 and 3 for clarification of these types of institutions.)
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