7 Differences Between High School and College

Beginning college is an exciting time. Just as leaving middle school and entering high school marked a new adventure and an exciting change, college brings with it a set of differences, challenges, and opportunities that are distinct from high school.

How different is college from high school?

The transition from high school to college is a significant moment for most students. With this transition come various changes, from increased independence to a different learning environment. Let’s explore some of the key differences between high school and college life:

1. Making New Friends

In high school, you may have friends you’ve known for years and attended school with. However, in college, you have more freedom to make friends outside of your classroom or activities. This provides an excellent opportunity to connect with individuals of diverse personalities and backgrounds. Joining clubs, participating in campus events, and attending social gatherings can be great ways to make new friends.

2. Roommates

If you are living in a dorm or apartment, you might have a roommate or even multiple roommates in college. Living with someone you haven’t known for long, or perhaps don’t know at all, can seem daunting. Approach the situation with kindness and an open mind. Your roommate may have different habits from your family, but living with them can be a fun experience. If you become friends, it’s like having a sleepover every night. You can plan enjoyable activities like movie nights, dining hall trips, going to the gym together, and more!

3. More Responsibility

In college, you have greater responsibility for yourself and your future goals. Parents may be less involved in your day-to-day life and won’t be there to remind you to clean your room or pick up your clothes. This increased independence is an opportunity for personal growth and self-discipline. Building independence and self-discipline takes time, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel you haven’t mastered it yet. You may no longer have teachers and parents closely monitoring your academic progress and well-being, so the dedication to achieving your goals in college falls on you.

4. Control of Schedule

In high school, your daily schedule is determined, starting in the morning and ending in the afternoon. You may not have much choice regarding the classes you take and when you attend them. In contrast, college provides more flexibility in choosing your courses and their timings.

Your course choices often depend on your major, with various classes available at different times. You can tailor your schedule to your preferences. For example, if you prefer to work out in the morning but don’t want to wake up at 5 a.m., you can schedule your classes to start at 10 or 11 in the morning. This flexibility is one of the most significant differences between high school and college.

5. Free Time

With control over your schedule comes the ability to manage your free time. Although college classes may be more challenging than those in high school, you’ll likely have more free time. If you played a sport in high school, think about how much time it consumed throughout the week and year. In college, you might have more free time, allowing you to focus on personal pursuits, explore hobbies, and more. However, with more free time comes added responsibility in managing it. You’ll need to allocate time for study, homework, and personal activities during your free time outside of class.

6. Different Learning Environment

College presents a unique learning environment with new classes, professors, and course materials compared to high school. There may be new and different resources, methods, and relationships with professors.

7. Less Frequent Tests

In high school, there are regular tests, quizzes, and exams throughout the school year. These tests often occur more frequently and cover smaller amounts of information compared to college exams. Typically, in college, tests are less frequent but more comprehensive, covering more material.

The frequency of tests may vary depending on the professor and the course, which can differ from class to class. This transition from high school to college might require you to adopt new study methods, note-taking strategies, and approaches to course material. Be adaptive and willing to try new things.

Transitioning from high school to college can be a significant step that brings both challenges and opportunities. Understanding and anticipating the differences between high school and college will prepare you for success as you embark on your college journey. With more freedom and responsibility, college life is an excellent time for personal growth and development. You’ll discover more about yourself, how you like to live, and how you prefer to work. Embrace these changes to make the most of your college experience and prepare for a bright future!

Exploring majors? Take a look at College Raptor’s College Major Search option to find more information about types of majors and what percentage of the US participates in those majors.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join thousands of students and parents learning about finding the right college, admissions secrets, scholarships, financial aid, and more.