University? College? Department? School? What is the difference?!

By Emily Carle

For many of you out there, including myself, coming to college means there is a whole new vocabulary to learn. Instead of teachers there are professors, there are TAs (teaching assistants) and GAs (graduate assistants) helping in class, and it’s tough to keep it all straight. To add to the confusion, the words university, college and school can’t always be used interchangeably. They may all seem to mean the same thing, but in actuality the different terms used make up the hierarchy of higher education. In simple terms, they’re different. Here’s a breakdown of each:

University: this is known as the highest level of higher education. Typically universities have four-year degrees as well as undergraduate and graduate level degrees. Also, a university is usually associated with research programs. For us, Kent State University is our university.
College: in the general sense, college can refer to a two-year or four-year degree institution. Colleges are usually smaller and can even be vocational or community colleges. Also, a college can be within a university, like it is here at Kent State.
At Kent State University, there are 9 main colleges: College of Architecture and Environmental Design, College of the Arts, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business Administration, College of Communication and Information, College of Education, Health and Human Services, College of Nursing, College of Public Health, and College of Technology. There are also some other programs, but these are the main 9 colleges. Under each college, there is their own hierarchy of departments and majors.

Let’s take College of Communication and Information, more commonly known as CCI. At the undergraduate level, there are three schools in CCI, the School of Communication Studies (COMM), located in Taylor Hall, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC), located in Franklin Hall and the School of Visual Communication Design (VCD), located in the Art Building. If that wasn’t confusing enough, each school has their own set of majors and advisors. Though we are all part of the same college and there may be some crossover, this is the major outline of how it is set up.
All together, CCI can help you in careers such as advertising, broadcasting, communication professions, electronic media production, graphic design, illustration, journalism, media management, photography, photojournalism, and public relations.
Specifically the CCI Website ( describes each school; COMM trains students to develop the knowledge and research skills in communication that will enable them to function effectively in interpersonal, group, organizational and societal settings. JMC provides professional programs in journalism, advertising, public relations, electronic media production and media management. VCD provides professional education that combines liberal education, knowledge of design and art history, and development of graphic design and illustration skills in print and electronic media.
The great thing is there are a lot of ways that all students in CCI can get together. For example, many majors or schools have their own student organizations, like Kent Communication Society (KCS) for all students in the School of Communication Studies. But, any student in CCI is welcome to come to the meetings. Also, we have many forms of student media on campus, like TV2, Black Squirrel Radio, Fusion, The Burr, and more that students in any major can be part of. So even though I am not a JMC major, I can still take classes like Principles of Public Relations and learn about aspects of PR.
If you are a JMC major and are thinking about taking a minor in a related field, something in Communication Studies or VCD may fit your fancy. As CCI, we can all be family! There are a lot of CCI-sponsored events, CCI-specific media outlets and communications, so keep in touch. Even this blog is meant for all CCI majors!
So to review, I am a student at Kent State University, in the College of Communication and Information, in the School of Communication Studies as an Applied Communication Studies major (phew!).
Emily Carle is a senior applied communication studies student and a marketing assistant in the CCI Dean’s Office.


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