The Next Step
In U.S. colleges, degree programs are available at multiple levels of study. If you've chosen to pursue higher education, there are two different paths you can follow: you can head straight into a four-year college once you get out of high school, or you can attend a two-year junior college or community college once you complete high school, then transfer into a four-year college to earn your bachelor's degree.
Types of College Degree Programs
College degree programs can be broken down into two broad categories: undergraduate and graduate. Undergraduate studies include degree programs at the associate's and bachelor's levels. An associate's degree can be completed in two years and is the lowest degree level offered by accredited institutions in the United States. Bachelor's degrees typically take four years to complete, and if you plan to go on to graduate degree programs, you must attain one.
Graduate schools offer master degree programs and doctorate degree programs, as well as post-doctoral studies. You can also attend graduate degree programs to earn a variety of specialized professional designations, including MBA degrees and law degrees.
Getting Into Degree Programs
Colleges primarily use your high school grade-point average and your SAT score to evaluate your application. The higher your grades and the better your SAT score, the more options you'll have available to you. This is true both for online degree programs and for traditional colleges.
Some degree programs also have additional admissions criteria. For example, you might be asked to write an admissions essay, attend an interview session, submit letters of recommendation or show evidence of community service or extracurricular activity.
If you want to continue your education but you've got a full-time day job that you don't want to (or can't afford to) leave, there are many worthwhile distance learning degree programs available through online institutions. In fact, many traditional colleges — schools that once only offered in-class programs — are now offering online degree programs as well. Earning an online degree is a perfectly viable alternative to attending traditional classes, so long as you confirm that the institution is accredited before you pay any tuition fees.
Attending degree programs improves both your mind and your career prospects. An associate's degree or bachelor's degree has become the standard educational requirement of many employers, so you'll enjoy enhanced professional opportunity by heading off to college.