Be Prepared For Differences Between High School And College

Be Prepared For Differences Between High School And College

This article was contributed by Stephen S. Strichart, Ph.D., founder of, a free study skills resource site. You will find more than 60 articles and hundreds of study tips at his site.

Moving from high school to college is a big step. Don't think of this transition as simply moving to the next grade. There are major differences between high school and college. You should be aware of these differences so that you can be prepared for them when you begin college.

Here are the most important differences between high school and college:

  • In high school, students follow an assigned daily schedule. In college, students must arrange their own schedules.

    Tip: Consider the times that classes meet. Don't schedule very early classes if it is difficult for you to get going in the morning.

  • In high school, classes usually meet every day. In college, classes meet two or three times a week.

    Tip: You will have to manage your time between classes very carefully.

  • In high school, class attendance is required and closely monitored. In college, attendance policies vary with the teacher. Some teachers take attendance and consider it when grading, while others pay no attention to attendance.

    Tip: Much of what will be tested is presented in class. Attend class even if the teacher doesn't take attendance.

  • In high school, classes usually have no more than 30 to 35 students. In college, some classes may have 100 or more students.

    Tip: You will receive less individual attention in college classes, so that you will have to work harder to stay focused.

  • In high school, teachers usually grade and check assignments. In college, teachers simply assume that students have done the work.

    Tip: Completing assignments is an important part of the learning process. Complete all your assignments even if the work is not checked.

  • In high school, teachers frequently remind students of assignment and test dates. In college, teachers provide this information at the beginning of the semester as part of their course syllabus, and expect students to read and refer to it as needed.

    Tip: Read the syllabus frequently and add notes to it as needed. Have it with you at all times.

  • In high school, teachers often provide review sessions before tests. In college, teachers rarely do so.

    Tip: Schedule review sessions with some of the other students in your class.

  • In high school, teachers are usually certified and have been trained in teaching methods. In college, teachers are not certified. While they know their subject, their teaching of the subject may be poor.

    Tip: Use graphic organizers and other similar devices to organize information that may be presented in a disorganized manner.

  • In high school, the number of hours per week you usually need to provide for studying is generally 1 to 3 hours per class. In college, this can jump to 6 to 9 hours per class.

    Tip: Schedule sufficient time and stick to your schedule.

  • In high school, teachers typically give frequents tests that cover small amounts of material. In college, teachers give fewer tests, with each test covering large amounts of material.

    Tip: Tests will cover too much information to allow you cram in one or two sessions. Keep up with the pace of the class and begin studying for a test a week or so before it is to be given.

  • In high school, you can often raise your grade by doing extra credit work. In college, this is rarely the case.

    Tip: Your class grade will primarily depend on tests scores and your grades on papers. Give these the emphasis they require.

  • In high school, you can often succeed by simply memorizing information. In college, you must develop and demonstrate deep understanding and critical analysis of information.

    Tip: Read your textbooks and other required materials in an active manner. Develop questions to be answered and take written notes.

These differences between high school and college mean that to succeed in college, you will have to take more responsibility and work harder than you did in high school.

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