dictionary and thesaurus

Someone recently submitted the phrase "undergraduate-focused institution" to our Glossary of Confusing Words, saying:

It might be confusing to spanish students because it's not commen in spanish

So, what does it mean if a college or university says it is "undergraduate-focused"?

First of all, an undergraduate is someone who is pursuing an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree (what are those?).  This is the level of education that comes after high school.

An undergraduate-focused institution, then, is a school that puts all or most of its attention on undergraduate education.  This type of school either only enrolls undergraduate students, or has only a few small graduate programs.  Undergraduate-focused institutions tend to be smaller liberal arts colleges.

The opposite would be a school where the graduate program is as large or larger than the undergraduate program, and faculty focus on research as well as teaching (you might hear this referred to as a research institution).

The inevitable next question, I'm sure, is: which one is better?  The answer is that it depends on your preferences, and on the individual school.  A small liberal arts college might mean smaller classes and more personal attention, but less resources and fewer big-name professors (or it might not - each school is different).

There's an interesting thread at College Confidential discussing the differences between undergraduate education at Yale University (considered one of the more undergraduate-focused of the Ivy League schools) and Harvard University (known as a prominent research institution):

Truthfully, I don't the difference is huge. Harvard,Yale,Princeton, wtvr.. they are all amazing institutions and if you wanted to get the attention you need, you could get it at any of these fine institutions. Its like comparing Lamborghini to Ferrari to Porsches... all up to personal preference.

Do you have a word to contribute to our Glossary of Confusing Words? Share words that have confused you or that might confuse others about studying in the U.S. Leave your suggestions in the comments, or use the form below.