So many of the questions asked in the college search process are structured as “either/or” questions.  Should I go to a big school or a small school?  4 year college or a 2 year college?  Public or private?  Full-time or part-time?  On-campus or online? Technical training or liberal arts?

Too often, we lock ourselves into these either/or choices when the options are far more varied, and filled with more nuance than the question asked may suggest.

Online or on-campus? More and more, this is a “false” question these days.  Traditional colleges are offering online courses.  At some schools, most of the courses (and most of the students) are now online.  Meanwhile, for-profit schools have expanded “brick and mortar” offerings and locations.  And probably the fastest growing mode of delivery is the “blended” course, with a few physical meetings coupled with an online component.

For-Profit Schools or Not-for-Profit Schools? Here, too, the battle lines are faded.  The Apollo Group, which is the University of Phoenix’ parent company, has programs at “traditional” institutions (I worked for one such college).   There are for-profit entities that have purchased traditional colleges (along with their regional accreditations).  Here is an article from this morning’s news about the blurring of the line between the two worlds.

Community College or a Four-Year Institution? Here, too, we are not living in your father’s college landscape.   In New Jersey, there are multiple examples of community colleges providing baccalaureate and even Masters level courses, generally packaged so that you can complete the entire degree at the community college.  Here is a link to the Raritan Valley Community College “University Center”. Here is some more information regarding the NJ Coastal Communiversity that was spearheaded by a recent CCR College of the Day, Brookdale Community College.

Even “big or small” has taken on new meaning, as there are several traditional liberal arts colleges with an 0n-campus enrollment of less than 1000 that have online and off-site enrollments many times greater.  And large schools that built their reputation via online offerings now offering small brick and mortar classes.

I guess this is the point in the post where I am supposed to praise or condemn the blurring of these traditional categories.  But, I’ll be darned if I know.

I am generally in favor of this expansion of modes of delivery and in providing options for students.  But there is a piece of me that worries that you can’t be all things to all people, and colleges may be running the risk of not being great in one medium if they try to work in all.

Although I rarely turn to the Monkees for profound insight, I think they sum it up nicely in this song. Higher Education in the 21st century is evolving (Monkees/evolving – get it?) and we are wrestling with uncertainties in some categories that didn’t previously exist.  And I fall back on what brought me to the dance – what fits, what meets your needs, what will get you from point A to point B, what excites you?  Answer these questions and you should do fine in your journey.  Pedigree and labels are only relevant in that context and, ultimately, it’s still about “fit, not reach”.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.