Updated: Aug 7, 2022
By: Celeste Calabrisi
As a tutor and college counselor, I often get asked, “Are high school and college really that different?”
The answer varies based on what that student wants to know. Many things are almost exactly the same and others are in stark contrast to each other. In this post, I will unpack some of the most important similarities and differences between these institutions of learning and how you should approach each one.
First, the teachers. The teachers in high school care much more about your grades than your professors will. Some professors may reach out to you if you are failing their classes, however, very few will even look twice at a struggling student if the student never asks for help. Students need to care about their grades and reach out to their professors when they are having difficulties with assignments, exams, or others. The professors are there to help you if you ask them though. Most professors are eager to help their students, in fact. The first step is to just ask them and be extremely honest with them.
Next, the courses and workload. Your first two years of college are when you take most of your “General Ed” classes. These classes are the same as your last two years in high school. You are required to take basic English, Math, and Science classes and some of them may just be reviewed. However, you do get the opportunity to take some courses you may have never thought of like Anthropology or Political Science to fulfill these requirements. While many complain about having to take these courses when they are repeats of high school, some make the claim that it slowly integrates the students for college life. It also gives students tastes of many different subjects in case they are interested in switching their majors. After your general ed courses, however, you will be in an entirely different realm of knowledge unlike in high school. Now, the workload varies for each subject, major, teacher, and how many units you take. Some professors do not want to grade that much stuff, so they assign little to no work. Other professors love essay grading, pop quizzes, and weekly assignments. It will all depend. However, many may argue the workload is less busy-work and overall work than in high school.
The environment is different too and varies from college campus to campus. More prestigious schools will be entirely different from party universities. In high school, many people have their assigned “groups,” but everyone knows everyone. However, in college, the campus is much larger and it is almost impossible to know more than half the student body. For that reason, college campuses are much more about who you decide to associate with and less about who you have classes with each year. Your network is only as large as you make it whether you decide to hang out with classmates, sororities/fraternities, or maybe someone you already know that goes to that college. Responsibilities are also often much greater for students. Some students have jobs (full-time and part-time), some students have kids, some students are middle-aged adults, and some students are just full-time students. In this way, with such a diverse group of people on just one campus, they are like tiny cities. It keeps the campus always new and alive.
Overall, you will have a completely different experience in college than in high school. Your experience in college is going to depend on what you decide to do with it: getting a job, joining clubs, making new friends, or staying with old ones. But one thing is for certain, you are more prepared than you know!
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