How is College Different From High School?

Maybe you’ve been accepted into the college of your dreams, or maybe you’re a little nervous about college because you don’t know what to expect. That is completely understandable. But don’t let that fear keep you from a new experience. 

Chances are if you have parents or siblings that went to college, then you probably have an idea of what to expect when you get there. Or maybe one of your teachers told you about their experience. For the rest of you, you might have some questions on how different college actually is from high school. 


Class Schedule

In high school, you’re forced to follow a pretty strict schedule. You have the same classes five days a week and have to be there during non-negotiable times. And you can’t even go to the bathroom without permission. 

College, on the other hand, you get to design the schedule that works best for you. Instead of having classes all day every day, you might have only one 50-minute class on one day, and two or three classes on another. Your first class might not be until 1:00 p.m.—that means you can sleep in! Who doesn’t love that?

While sleeping in can definitely be a perk, make sure to take advantage of the free time you have. If you’re first class isn’t until 1:00 p.m., use that time to catch up on homework or go over class notes from the previous day. Be mindful of how you spend your time; you’ll thank yourself later. 


Class Sizes

Class sizes in high school could range anywhere from low-teens up to 30, depending on the school. That’s a relatively small class size compared to some courses you’ll take in college. 

Especially with your general education classes, most likely you will be in a lecture hall or auditorium setting with about 150 other students. Unlike high school where you pretty much have the same people in all of your classes, you may only know one other person or none at all. 

Most of the time in lecture hall/auditorium classes the professors don’t take attendance. This can be a good thing in those moments when life happens. But try to resist the temptation to skip class because attendance won’t affect your grade. Don’t expect any special treatment from your professors at the end of the semester because you missed too many classes. 

Teaching Styles

You’re probably used to your teachers in high school having multimedia presentations and providing the occasional study guide before a quiz or test. College is a bit different when it comes to taking notes in class—your professors aren’t going to make it that easy for you. 

This is one of those instances where skipping class could come back to bite you. In college, don’t rely on your professors to provide you with a nice outline at the end of the semester in case you didn’t take careful notes. Most of them won’t even post the presentation to the lecture online. 

Another thing your professors will expect from you is that you’ve done the reading. You may have gotten by in high school by skipping the reading and only paying attention in class. But when you’re in college, professors lecture with the understanding you’ve done the reading; therefore, they use the class time to go into more detail. 

If you don’t have time to complete the full reading assignment, you should at least skim through the chapter(s) before class so you’re not completely unprepared. 


Time Management

With great power comes great responsibility. Having a varied schedule can be nice, but you’re really going to have to fine-tune those time management skills. You won’t have someone making sure you complete all of your assignments or are studying for your exams. 

I would recommend that when you create your schedule you immediately designate set study times. College provides newfound freedom and a breath of fresh air that can be easily abused. So, stay mindful of that freedom and stay focused on why you’re there—for your education. 

Without any direct adult supervision, you’re going to have to hold yourself accountable. Sure, your parents can call you every day and make sure you’re doing the work, but at the end of the day, it’s all on you. 

Higher Expectations

If it sounds like the expectations in college are higher, it’s because they are. In high school you’re required to attend, but in college you’re paying to be there. Your professors assume that you’re there because YOU want to be. 

Your high school teachers may have accepted excuses from time to time, but you won’t have that luxury in college. Your professors will treat you like an adult – because that’s what you are! If you disrupt class or are checking your Facebook and Instagram instead of paying attention, you’ll most likely be asked to leave. And remember, you’re paying to be there.

As you can see, college provides you with more freedom than high school, but that also means it requires you to manage that freedom. College is a great opportunity and can be a wonderful experience, but it’s up to you to make that happen. At Blueprint, our mission is to help you understand what to expect and how to take full advantage of your college years through our College and Career Success Summer Immersion Programs. Our students depart their program with the confidence they need to enter their next chapter and succeed in college, career and life.