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How is College Different from High School?


One of the biggest questions that Seniors have on their mind is "How is College Different from High School?"

Well, here are a few of the differences...

Following the Rules in High School vs. Choosing Responsibility in College:
  • High School is Mandatory and usually free...College is Voluntary and expensive.
  • In High School, your time is structured by others...In College, you manage your own time.
  • In High School, you need permission to participate in extracurricular activities...In College, you must decide whether to participate in student activities.
  • In High School, parents and teachers take the lead in reminding you of your responsibilities and guiding you in setting priorities...In College, YOU must balance your responsibilities, set priorities and manage your own time.
  • In High School, you go from one class to another, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week (30 hours a week)...In College, you often have hours in between classes and class times vary throughout the day and evening (as a full-time college student, you may spend 12-18 hours/week in class)
  • In High School, your classes are already arranged for you...In College, you arrange your own schedule in consultation with your academic advisor.
  • In High School, you are not responsible for knowing what it takes to graduate...In College, graduation requirements are complex and different for each major and YOU are expected to know those that apply to you.
  • To sum it up...In High School, you will usually be told what to do and corrected if your behavior is out of line. In College, YOU are expected to take responsibility for what you do and don't do, as well as for the consequences of your decisions.
Going to High School Classes vs. Being Successful in College Courses:
  • In High School, you may have to only study for a few minutes a day (mostly last-minute preparation)...In College, you need to study 2 to 3 hours outside of class for each hour you actually spend in class.
  • In High School, you seldom need to ready anything more than once and sometimes listening in class can be enough...In College, you will need to review class notes and book material regularly.
  • In High School, you are expected to read short assignments and then discuss them or re-read in class...In College, you are assigned substantial amounts of reading which may not be directly reviewed in class, but will most certainly be on your exams.
  • To sum it up...In High School, you will usually be told in class what you need to learn and focus on from assigned readings. In College, it's up to YOU to read and understand the assigned material; lectures and assignments proceed from the assumption that you've already done what has been asked of you.
High School Teachers vs. College Professors
  • In High School, teachers check your completed homework...In College, professors may not always check for completed work, but will assume that you can perform the same tasks on an exam.
  • Teachers remind you of incomplete work...Professors may not remind you of incomplete work.
  • Teachers may talk to you and your parents about your progress and about any concerns...Professors will not talk to parents about your academic progress because of federal privacy laws.
  • Teachers approach you if they believe you need assistance...Professors are usually open and helpful, but expect YOU to initiate contact if you need assistance.
  • Teachers are often available for conversation before, during or after class...Professors expect and want you to attend their scheduled office hours.
  • Teachers provide you with information you missed when you were absent...Professors expect you to get any notes you missed from classmates.
  • Teachers present material to help you understand the material in the textbook...Professors may not follow the textbook, but instead may give illustrations, discuss research about the topic or they may want you to relate the classes to the textbook.
  • Teachers often take time to remind you of assignments and their due dates...Professors expect you to read, save and consult the course syllabus (outline) which spells out exactly what is expected of you, when it is due and how you will be graded (the syllabus is handed out on the first day of class.)
  • To sum it up...High School is a teaching environment in which you acquire facts and skills. College is a learning environment in which you take responsibility for thinking through the information and applying what you have learned.
Tests in High School vs. Tests in College:
  • Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material in high school...In College, testing is usually infrequent and may be cumulative, covering large amounts of material; YOU, not the professor, need to organize material in order to prepare for the test; there may be only 2 or 3 tests in a whole course!
  • Make-up tests are often available in high school...In College, make-up tests are seldom an option, if they are, YOU have to request them.
  • High school tests may be rearranged to avoid conflict with other tests or school events...Professors in different courses usually schedule tests without regard to the demand of other courses or other activities.
  • Teachers frequently conduct review sessions and provide review sheets, pointing out the most important concepts...Professors rarely offer review sessions and when they do, they are voluntary and they expect that you are actively participating and come prepared with specific questions.
  • To sum it up...In High School, mastery is usually seen as the ability to reproduce what you were taught in the form in which it is presented to you, or to solve the kinds of problems you were shown how to solve. In College, mastery is often seen as the ability to apply what you've learned to new situations or to solve new kinds of problems.
Grades in High School vs. Grades in College:
  • Grades are given for most assigned work in high school...Grades in college may not be provided for all work.
  • In High School, consistently good homework grades may raise your overall grade when test grades are low...In College, grades on tests on major papers provide most of the grade for the course.
  • Initial test grades, especially when they are low, may not have an adverse affect on your final grade in high school...In College, watch out for your first test! These are usually wake-up calls to let you know what is expected, but they can also count for a major portion of your grade.
  • You may graduate high school as long as you passed all your required courses with a D or higher...In College, you may graduate only if your GPA is 2.0 (at least a C) and in some majors, you may need a C or above in certain courses.
  • In High School, effort counts; courses are usually structured to reward a "good-faith effort"...In College, results count; though "good-faith effort" is important in regard to the professor's willingness to help you achieve good results, it will not substitute for results in the grading process. 
How You Can Make the Transition to College a Little Smoother...
  • Take control of your own education. You are an independent learner and can do it!
  • Get to know your college professors and academic advisors...they are great resources to turn to.
  • Be assertive and ask for help when you need it. Don't wait until it's too late!
  • Take control of your time. Plan ahead and be realistic about your other responsibilities. Satisfy academic obligations, it's what you're there for.
  • Use an Academic Planner or Agenda to remember important deadlines, paper due dates, course exams, etc.
  • Discuss with your advisor your course selections and stay on top of your requirements.
  • Set goals for each semester, the year and your college career!
  • Take a deep breath, do your best and enjoy this time in your life...you can do it! :)



This information was adapted from a document published on the Southern Methodist University Website.