11 Differences Between College and High School

July 22, 2016

Make no mistake, college is as much fun as it is necessary. However, not everyone heads into college with upbeat enthusiasm. Many people hear “I’m taking a semester (or even a year) off” because they’ve just gone through 12 years of school. While that may seem reasonable, that’s usually because students are looking to forego more school to enjoy an elongated summer vacation. Sure, a part-time job might be involved, but if you actually want to take time off school to “work,” then college is the only path you can take. Today, there are a lot of jobs, but if you don’t have a degree, you can’t expect to be considered – it will be an uphill battle.

11 Differences Between College and High SchoolHowever, many of the things that may have fatigued you in those 12 years of schooling may not be present at all in college – in fact, arguably none of them are. The first thing you need to understand is that college is not a daycare to give your parents a break. All this schooling is to develop you into a lifelong learner; or as Socrates would say, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” And that’s not limited to academia. How do you get promoted in your job? You learn/gain new skills. How do you get into a particular industry? You learn and network with people in that industry. How do you save money? You learn how to cook; you learn how to budget; you learn to mathematically figure if a job 20 miles from your home is worth the increase in wages compared to the expense of fuel.

College is not like your last 12 years of school, and it’s especially not like high school. College is what you make it and the following 11 differences should help you see why going to college should always be met with enthusiasm. There will be stressful nights, but it will transform you into a responsible and successful adult.

1. You will be anonymous

For many people, transitioning between elementary school to middle school to high school involves some overlap of friends. It’s rare that you’ll enter a new school without a few friends. Even then, once you’re enrolled, you’re in that school for four years. You may be surprised at the end of your senior year that you can look around you and know everyone by name and what extra-curricular events, activities, or groups they were involved with.

In college, even if a few of you are going to the same school, it’s rare to be in the same class as someone you know. You’re not in a pond, you’re in an ocean with people who have no idea who you are. This means professors will be judging you on your work ethic and if you want friends, you can’t simply hang around the same circles, you need to learn to meet people. If it sounds daunting, it can be, but being able to meet people is a crucial skill that your previous 12 years probably didn’t prepare you for.

2. You’re living on your own

Most colleges in Oregon offer some form of housing and this is usually a stark departure from what students are used to. For the first time, you’re on your own, able to live in an environment the way you want. Of course, you’ll have a roommate, but that will prepare you for the years to come when a roommate is necessary to continue living on your own. You may even enjoy a roommate so much that you see it as more cost effective. Whatever the case may be, you don’t need to worry about parents asking what you did that day. You maintain your home.

3. You build your own schedule

High schools are fairly standardized and strive to maintain normal working hours: 8:00AM to 5:00PM five days a week. In college however, many professors have other projects, field work, or even jobs within their field of interest. Their schedules are erratic and that’s what makes your schedules so flexible. Don’t want to wake up at 7:00AM every morning? Don’t. Schedule classes after noon (at the earliest). Want to work during the morning hours and school at night? Do it. Want to set up a two-hour break between your classes to budget time for the gym and lunch? You have the freedom to schedule your classes how you want.

4. Your professors are the experts

In high school, you might’ve struggled with something in the reading for a particular class. Maybe you’ve been met with a nebulous answer from your teacher because it’s open to interpretation; and maybe that kind of answer doesn’t sit well with you.

In college however, nine times out of ten, your professors have written the textbooks you’re working from. If you have a question, you can bet they’ll have an answer.

5. You learn to explore

In high school, it’s fairly easy for students to go home to their private room and study. In college, this is not the case. If you have a roommate that’s loud, watches a lot of television, or is extremely social, then you may be pulled into a procrastination bubble. As a result, you need to get out of your home and explore areas that are suitable for you to study. Coffee shops, libraries, or if Wi-Fi isn’t an issue, maybe parks or beaches.

6. You will not finish your homework in one day

In high school, waiting until the last night before writing a paper could get you a passing grade. In college, this isn’t the case. You’re expected to whittle away at your homework daily and if you can’t get it done, then your grade will suffer. However, this is part of the responsibilities that comes with being a functioning adult. You don’t simply build your schedule and cruise on autopilot, you need to manage your time wisely and know when to approach a professor about assigning “too much” homework.

7. Classes aren’t Monday through Friday

If Monday through Friday worked for you in high school, then continue that trend. However, in college, you do have the freedom to schedule classes four, three, or (in some cases) even two days a week. The most important element is finding a balance that works for you.

8. Reading is mandatory

In high school, “assigned reading” in laymen’s terms meant “take the night off.” Not so in college. In college, if you don’t read, you’ll be in the dark and you will fall behind. Professors aren’t going to coddle you in this regard, if reading is all that’s assigned, you should take it with as much gravitas as a 30-page paper.

9. Students want to be in college

School isn’t simply required anymore, you have to voluntarily apply and attend. Plus, college costs money. For many people, that can be a deterrent, but it is an investment; you’re investing in yourself. Going to school for four years paves the way to your future career that you may be working over the next half a century (give or take a few years). As a result, you’ll find that your fellow students are exceptional long-term planners because they knowingly consign to debt to attend. You can bet they’re not there to goof off, they see the goal.

10. There are no cliques

You might’ve grown up in a school separated into cliques. There were people who played sports, those who performed theater, those who practiced music, and so on. However, in college, there are no separate groups. You can either overlap between myriad groups or you can compartmentalize all of your interests. Either way, it’s up to you what you’re involved in – and no one is going to ask you to adhere to one group.

11. You’re expected to confront your professor

In high school, teachers may come to you in private to talk about your grades or a principal might call you into their office to talk about your attendance; in college, you will get no such courtesy. If you’re not showing up (especially in those first few weeks), expect to see either an “F” or be dropped from the class altogether.

Professors treat you like an adult and expect you to come to them if you’re having difficulties. So take the initiative.

Again, some students will read through this list and feel overwhelmed – so much responsibility – but ideally, if you’re ready to forge your own future, then you see that “responsibility” is synonymous with “freedom”. You are expected to become your own person, take hold of your schedule, and network with people. You are not simply lumped into a system, you create your own.