Campus Culture: Community College vs. University

What is College Culture?

Just like students have different learning styles, every educational institution has its own personality – the unique combination of activities, values, and philosophy or outlook that make up its overall campus culture.

Before you enroll in a college, you should visit the campus to get a feel for whether its culture will be a good fit for you.

For example, does the campus have an atmosphere of tradition and serious study, or do you sense more of a laid-back party school vibe? Observing the attire and behavior of students and faculty can also give you a taste of the culture on campus.

Why Care About Campus Culture?

Anyone can take a class in person or online, but if you do not immerse yourself in campus life, you may feel detached from the college; your coursework becomes just a means to an end. If you want to gain the full college experience, you need to be involved in campus activities.

The diversity of a college campus offers something for everyone. Joining clubs or organizations, volunteering your time, and participating in sports are great ways to get connected. Find something you enjoy so you can interact with other students and feel like part of a community.

University Culture

Some students are drawn to four-year universities. Perhaps your parents are alumni of the local university and you grew up rooting for their sports team. If you have your heart set on attending a traditional university and have the financial means, it can be a rewarding experience that you’ll never forget.

Older universities in particular have developed a distinctive and cherished culture born from the institution’s history and mission, and steeped in tradition. This tradition in turn reinforces that history and works to incorporate newcomers into the culture by passing on to them the school spirit and values. That’s why some universities require freshmen to live on campus.

A university offers many things that a community college does not, including campus facilities, athletic programs, and a more robust student life. In addition to the extensive campus infrastructure and extracurricular programs, living in a student dorm immerses you in campus culture.

Community College Culture

If you don’t care as much about the social aspects and you just want to get a good education and save money, there are many benefits to attending a community college. The quality of education is comparable to a four-year university, credits are transferable, tuition is more affordable, classes are smaller, and the schedule is more flexible.

You will miss out on some parts of “the college experience,” but you may be pleasantly surprised when you visit some community college campuses. Many of the nation’s larger community colleges have invested substantially in facilities like student centers, campus dining, computer labs, theater buildings, fitness centers, and sports complexes.

If you’d like to play sports but don’t feel that you’re ready for NCAA Division I competition, you may be able get more playing time and better enjoy the sport at a community college. Many of them have active and diverse athletics programs, including competitive football, basketball, track and field, baseball, volleyball, and more.

Community colleges also have plenty of student clubs and organizations for you to join. The main difference is that students commute to class, rather than live in dorms on campus. So it’s easy to find yourself aloof from the college culture and not have any school spirit if you don’t partake in the extracurricular activities available on campus.


The choice of community college vs. university depends on what you really want out of a college education, and which campus culture you think is best for your needs. If you start out at a two-year college and then transfer to a four-year college, you will have the opportunity to experience both worlds.

No matter which college you choose, be sure to go on campus tours, attend student orientations, and participate in freshman seminars designed to familiarize you with campus activities and facilities. The more time you spend on campus, the more you will feel like you belong there.

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