"School"
"College"
"University"
They often seem to me to be interchangeable in AmE.

Are they?
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"School" "College" "University" They often seem to me to be interchangeable in AmE. Are they?

Neither your impression nor the breadth of American English offer any answer to this question. You have to consider actual usage, e.g.
(1) Actual establishments: e.g. the University
of Toronto which includes a School of Medicine,
Massey College, etc.
(2) Actual users of AmE: because you can
ask them what they mean and why.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs (Ottawa, Canada)
MC (Email Removed) wrote on 09 Nov 2003:
"School" "College" "University" They often seem to me to be interchangeable in AmE. Are they?

Yes and no. In informal speech, many people don't bother to make the distinction. They'll say "I went to school at Harvard", which probably means that they went to Harvard College for a BA degree. If they say they went to Harvard University, it probably means they got a law degree or an MBA there, or perhaps some other type of advanced degree.

In formal usage, there are differences between these three.
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In informal speech, many people don't bother to make the distinction. They'll say "I went to school at Harvard",

Maybe if they graduated within the past decade or two. To more ancient alumni, calling the college a school alerts the ears: it's an understandable, but unexpected, innovation.
which probably means that they went to Harvard College for a BA degree.

Not still an A.B. degree? Aaron?
"School" "College" "University" They often seem to me to be interchangeable in AmE. Are they?

Depends.
"I went to school at Indiana" means I attended Indiana University.

"I went to college at Indiana" means I attended Indiana University.

"I went to university at Indiana" means I attended Indiana University and I'm phrasing it this way to irritate Areff.
Change the "at" to "in" and the meanings become quite different.

"I went to school in Indiana" means that I attended either grade school, high school, or university (or a combination of those levels) in the state of Indiana.
"I went to college in Indiana" means I attend one of the many colleges in the state of Indiana.
"I went to university in Indiana" means I attended one of the many universities in the state of Indiana and I'm phrasing it this way to irritate Areff.
"School" "College" "University" They often seem to me to be interchangeable in AmE. Are they?[/nq]No. 'School' refers to any school, whether nursery, kindergarten, elementary school, high school (what's called 'secondary school' in BrE, I believe), college, professional school, graduate school, or a two-week course in widget-making. (Indeed, less formally, 'school' can refer to a two-hour course in widget-making.) 'College' refers to a typically-four- year school leading to a bachelor's degree. Sometimes 'college' also refers to a junior college, which I'll define immediately.

A 'junior college' grants typically-two-year degrees called "associate's degrees". A junior college is sometimes called a 'community college', although perhaps more accurately a community college is a small, public junior college. A 'professional school' grants post-bachelor's degrees in a profession, like law or medicine. A 'graduate school' grants post- bachelor's degrees in more academic subjects, like mathematics and anthropology. Sometimes people will call a professional school a 'graduate school' also.

A 'trade school' granst post-secondary degrees in a profession, like plumbing and hairdressing. (An undergraduate (i.e., postsecondary) school of engineering or architecture is usually considered a college rather than a trade school because it requires its students to take a broad range of subjects, including subjects not relating to their chosen profession.)
Now I realize that I omitted high school and below. There are three systems:
A. 'Elementary school' is first through eighth grades (approx. ages six through thirteen). 'High school' is ninth though twelfth (fourtenn through seventeen).
B. 'Elementary school' is first through fifth (six through ten), 'middle school' sixth though eighth (eleven through thirteen), 'high school' as above.
C. 'Elementary school' is first through sixth (six through eleven), 'middle school' seventh through ninth (twelve thorough fourteen), 'high school' tenth though twelfth (fifteen through seventeen). In any of these systems, middle school might instead be called 'junior high school' or 'intermediate school'.
Also, there are (at least) two systems:

1. The year before first grade is 'Pre-1A' (somehow it looks bettercapitalized to me) (approx. age five). The year before that is 'kindergarten' (four). The year before that is 'nursery (school)' (three).

2. The year before first grade is 'kindergarten' (five); the year beforethat is 'pre-K' (four); the year before that is 'nursery (school)' (three).
I think the difference between (1) and (2) might be regional.

I hope that that's comprehensive, and invite comments.

Michael Hamm Since mid-September of 2003, AM, Math, Wash. U. St. Louis I've been erasing too much UBE. (Email Removed) Of a reply, then, if you have been cheated, http://math.wustl.edu/~msh210/ Likely your mail's by mistake been deleted.
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I, today, wrote a long explanation. In part, it read:
There are three systems: A. 'Elementary school' is first through eighth grades (approx. ages six through thirteen). 'High school' is ... (fifteen through seventeen). In any of these systems, middle school might instead be called 'junior high school' or 'intermediate school'.

However, see
www.cogsci.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/webwn?stage=1&word=middle+school and http://www.usoe.k12.ut.us/data/glossary.htm , which have definitions different from mine (and from one another). Note, too, that high school is sometimes called 'senior high school', to distinguish it from junior high school.
I hope that that's comprehensive

It's not; I omitted 'university'. A 'university' is a multi-school (in the strict sense of "at least two", not the mathematician's sense of "at least zero") organization with at least one postsecondary school in its composition. Usually, a university will include at least one college and at least one graduate or professional school.
Michael Hamm Since mid-September of 2003, AM, Math, Wash. U. St. Louis I've been erasing too much UBE. (Email Removed) Of a reply, then, if you have been cheated, http://math.wustl.edu/~msh210/ Likely your mail's by mistake been deleted.
(Email Removed) (J. W. Love) wrote on 09 Nov 2003:
In informal speech, many people don't bother to make the distinction. They'll say "I went to school at Harvard",

Maybe if they graduated within the past decade or two. To more ancient alumni, calling the college a school

And is a college not a school?
alerts the ears: it's an understandable, but unexpected, innovation.

I don't remember what my first brother-in-law called it when he went there from 1965-69.
For those of us who went to school elsewhere, it doesn't matter much.

You seem to be describing people of the type that take offence not only when outsiders call SF "Frisco", but when they fail to add the (in Spanish, perhaps) required "The City of" to "San Francsico". I've met one or two of those. I forgot them quickly.
which probably means that they went to Harvard College for a BA degree.

Not still an A.B. degree? Aaron?

Times have changed and "A.B." has been reborn as "BA". What graduates of Harvard College call their degrees to the contrary notwithstanding.
Depends.

Only if your a Hoosier, and don't care to know the difference.

Further South, a college doesn't have a paved parking lot or a football stadium, a university has both.
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