Could you tell me if I need to use the preposition in or to in the context below?

I've never studied in university, but I have been in college.

I've never studied in university, but I have been to college.

I'm aware that when we are talking about out experiences of being in different places, to is used with the present perfect. But, in my context college is not really a place but rather a concept, which makes it hard for me to choose which preposition to use.

  • I would say "graduated from college" or "finished college". Regarding the preposition, to fits better if you see college as an educational institution. in can work if you mean premises. (I'll leave it as a comment because I am not sure) May 9, 2021 at 12:23
  • Also I have been at college. Like in, that would usually imply having been there on at least one occasion - possibly as an answer to, for example, Where were you this afternoon? Unlike to, which would normally imply for the entire duration of some extended educational course. May 9, 2021 at 15:20
  • This doesn’t make sense to me - if you go to college, you have studied there - unless you mean that you have physically visited a college campus. May 9, 2021 at 20:33

1 Answer 1


The two sentences mean slightly different things, but "been to" is the more common.

"I have been in college" would be used when talking about a specific time, when you were attending college rather than doing something else. For instance, at a job interview, you might be asked why there is a gap on your (BrE) CV / (AmE) resume, and answer "I have been in college", "I have been in prison", or "I have been ill".

"I have been to college" refers more generally to attending college at some point in your life. It would be a good answer to the question "What is the highest level of education you have?" (Although be aware that "college" means different things in different countries!)

If the question was "where have you been today?", either answer would make sense. "Been in" would emphasise the time spent while you were there, "been to" would emphasise going there and coming back.

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