Tag Archives: college

CollegeQandA asks: What is the difference between high school and college?

What is the difference between high school and college – Are they different?

Yes.  Let me highlight a few reasons why, and how the transition can be challenging for many students.

highschoolFirst, the most common idea in popular cultures is that of the: First-year 15 (more usually called the freshman 15, but I’m against the word “freshman”) – the idea that your grades will go down by 15 points and your weight will go up by 15 pounds.  I suffered from only one of the two in my first-year, and I didn’t gain any weight.

Your life

The first major change, independent of the academics, is the life change (for most people).  Until now, many of you have relied on your family to do much of the “life stuff” – laundry, food, bills, doctor, etc.  University life is a first-step, though still sheltered, into you running your own life and becoming an adult.  This includes the all important You choose when, what, and where to be since it is Your life.  Nobody is responsible for you attending class, getting your homework done, sleeping, eating, showering, etc.  The great freedom you have been searching for is now here, but you now have to take full responsibility for your actions.  This includes legal consequences for breaking the law.

University vs. High School teachers

Another major difference is that the people that teach you have different responsibilities in university versus high school.  In both cases, the teachers want you to do well and achieve great things, but in high school your teachers see you 5 days a week and they have a much tighter relationship in your learning process.  They can check if you have done your work each day and are progressing in learning.

Let’s assume that you spend 6 hours a day in high school equaling 30 hours a week.  In college you will have between 12 to 20 hours a week of class/lab/studio time with an instructor (not necessarily the professor).  The expectation is that instead of in-class learning, that much of your new found free time will be spent studying.  College classes are, likely, larger than your high school classes, meaning the professor has less time to spend with you.

The major crux, though, is that a college professor has no responsibility to give you a passing grade just because you attended.  A college course sets a bar of success that you must satisfy, and depending on your demonstration you will be graded accordingly.  High school teachers, on the other hand, are pushed to make sure you pass your course, and to move you on through the system.

Is that it?

Those are just two reasons why the two institutions are different.  There are many more, but keep in mind that the biggest step in succeeding at this transition is you getting organized, disciplined, and working hard.  I have seen many people avoid the first-year 15.  Also, minor hiccups in this transition are not the end of the world.  Try and avoid a disastrous first year (failing courses) since this will cost you both financially and academically.


Photo from creative common license: City of Boston Archives;  titled: Roslindale High School – Exterior View 1, Poplar St., Roslindale, Boston, MA. School building photographs circa 1920-1960 (Collection # 0403.002)