10 Differences Between High School and College

10 Differences Between High School and College

Everyone knows that high school and college are different. Find out what makes it exciting, more challenging and fun!

Edited By

You may have been the editor of your school newspaper or student body president, but extracurricular activities in college are a whole new level of involvement.

High school can feel like a really long time with all the homework, cliques at school and endless chores at home, but for many students, the thought of going to college is a bright beacon of hope at the end of the tunnel where cool classes, new friends and living in the dorms await. Yet, what's really different about high school and college aside from the fun stuff?

Whether you’ve chosen your dream school and already know your major, or you’re just starting to think about colleges, you probably want to know more about what’s on the other side of high school graduation. Explore our list below of the top 10 differences between high school and college.

1. There are no parents!

No parents means no one waking you up for class in the morning; no one telling you to do your homework; no one telling you when to have dinner; and no one telling you that you can or can’t go out with friends. Basically, no parents means you'll be expected to use you best judgment to take care of yourself.

Tip: You may not miss them, but they’ll miss you -- don't forget to call once in a while!

2. No one cares if you skip class (for the most part).

While the professors of small classes might expect you to keep regular attendance, no one is going to stop you from skipping that 300-person lecture in favor of a nap.

Tip: Be careful, this freedom could come back to haunt you on mid-term day if you miss too much material covered in lecture.

3. You can set your own schedule.

Classes might fill up quick, but you get to choose what days and times you take them. You will have breaks in between classes and maybe whole days where you don’t have to go to class. This is a very exciting difference between high school and college because you have the ability to explore new interests by setting your own schedule.

Tip: Always plan time to study and eat meals -- while you can eat whenever you want, the dining hall has set hours.

4. Money is always on your mind.

While it’s totally unfair that textbooks cost so much, the professor won’t be sympathetic. In fact, a lot of things in college are expensive and you'll probably have to set a budget for yourself since you won't have your parents around to pay for thing or ask for money. You might even have to skip going out to dinner sometimes if you're on a fixed budget.

Tip: Learn to live within your means; it's much more fun to have money the whole semester rather than run out at the end!

5. Dorms are fun, crowded and often crazy.

Living in the dorms is probably one of the most iconic experiences of college life. While some schools have coed floors and bathrooms, others are known for their amenities or activities like video game tournaments and campus scavenger hunts. And, in the first few weeks of college, you’ll probably stay up until at least 2 AM every night (and some people never grow out of that). Whether you're super social or a little shy, who knew that living in a room the size of a closet with three other people could be so fun?

Tip: Make an effort to be a good roommate, no matter how well you get along living in a tight space requires communication, patience and respect.

6. Extracurricular activities require a lot more work.

You may have been the editor of your school newspaper or student body president, but extracurricular activities in college are a whole new level of involvement. Many students who pursue these activities in college are considering careers in similar fields. And, people join clubs because they’re passionate about them and they expect you to be just as dedicated to them too. Do things you love, but don’t be afraid to try new ones as well.

Tip: Try activities that interest you, but don't feel obligated to continue if you find something better.

7. The final exam can be worth 60% of your grade.

In big lecture classes, the final exam at the end of the term could be worth most of your grade. Oh, and the midterm could be as much as 30% of your grade. And no, a lot times, professors don't give extra credit. Study hard and do your homework. You’ll need to keep your GPA up if you want to hold onto college grants and scholarships. Plus, some employers want to know your GPA when you look for a job.

Tip: Follow your professor's study advice and ask for clarification on things you don't understand during office hours.

8. "No homework" doesn’t mean "no studying."

Professors don’t assign a lot of homework, but they expect you to keep up with all the material, especially the reading, which means they expect for you to study on your own. Whether you need to create flash cards, take notes or form a study group, find ways to study so you'll be prepared for the exams.

Tip: Think about how you learned things easily in high school and find ways to replicate it in your study sessions.

9. In college, there's easy access to drugs and alcohol.

Without any parents around and with everyone living on their own for the first time, many students drink and use drugs while in college. However, this type of freedom has its dangers. Everyone has different opinions and beliefs, but one thing is a fact, you're in college to learn and earn a degree to help you get a job later. Make sure that graduating is your top priority and you don't let anything hinder your success.

Tip: Make smart choices that won't keep you from reaching your goals.

10. Learning to write a good college paper is really important.

Writing skills are a critical difference between high school and college, and one that you don’t hear about often. It’s no wonder that most colleges make students pass a writing course before taking any other classes. Learn how to write a solid paper in your first term -- whether you ask your professor for more guidance or seek help from a writing tutor in your college's tutoring center -- getting this skill under your belt will help you save time and get better grades.

Tip: Don’t just turn in that first draft of a paper you wrote the night before. Writing is re-writing. Proofread your work and don’t be afraid to edit a few drafts before handing in the final copy.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

Get a Jump Start: Prepare for College Before High School
Building a Strong High School 4-Year Plan
College Planning: When Should I Start?
Time Management Skills for College Prep

See All Getting Started with Your College Planning Articles


Visit Our Student Center

Get on track!

Visit our Student Center

And find out everything you need to know about planning for college.