What is College?

First things first, let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same thing, because the word “college” can be confusing. In America, teenagers say that they’re going off to “college” at 18 as a way of saying “university”. Here in Britain, “college” describes a place we go to at 16 for a couple of years (or even when we’re adults and we want to learn something new – I went to college when I was 23 to learn history every Wednesday evening for a whole year, and I loved it!).

We’re going to talk about both types here, as they’re both interesting. So, imagine this; you’re 16, you’ve sat your exams, and you’re trying to decide what to do next. Should you go to a sixth form? Maybe college, or perhaps even look for a job. It’s tough to decide what to do, but don’t forget – you’ll be 16, so you will have been to secondary school for five years. You will have learnt a lot of different subjects – English, Maths, Science, History, Drama, French, and so on – and you’ll know what ones interest you the most.

The most important thing to remember is this; college at 16 lets you study a few subjects in a lot more detail. Are you interested in psychology (the science of the mind), for example, or RE, or car mechanics? Even if you don’t know what you want to do as a job when you’re older (and let me tell you a secret – a lot of people don’t when they’re 16!), just choose things that interest you. When I went to Sixth Form, one of my subjects was Sociology (where we studied the societies people lived in). That was never going to be a job I wanted to do, but it was still really interesting.

The other type of “college” – what we call university in the UK – is where we go when we’re 18 or so (some people go off and work for a while, then study when they’re older). At university, you’d study one subject in a lot more detail for three years or even longer. That sounds like a long time, doesn’t it? But don’t worry; if it’s definitely a subject you like, you’ll find it interesting.

One important thing you need to know; not everyone goes to university, and that’s okay. You have to go to do certain jobs – a doctor, for example, or a teacher – and some companies like their staff to have degrees, but they’re not essential for everything

Did you know that doctors have to go to university for seven years?! That shows how much there is to learn about medicine.

Some people go to university because they’re really interested in a subject and want to learn more about it, and also because they can make new friends and spend some time living in a different part of the country. Those reasons are entirely fine, but other people prefer to leave college at 18 and go straight into a job.

College and university can be really interesting; just remember two things. Study what you want to study, not what anyone else tells you to, and enjoy it; learning makes you more interesting.

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