15 Major Differences between High School and College

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If you’re reading this then I’m guessing that you are at that stage where you are about to start university.

No doubt it’s an exciting time for you. And starting your student-life should be just that, exciting. But starting from square one – with anything – can be quite stressful and cause a fair bit of anxiety.

Not only will you be starting off from scratch, but you will also be exposed to a new environment with a completely different modus-operandi.

And that’s exactly what this post is for: to introduce to you some of the changes you can expect when graduating from high school and moving to college.

After reading this article you’ll feel more prepared and ready to transition to your new student-life.

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1. YOU’LL ALWAYS BE IN THE KNOW

This is such a revolutionary advance in your learning process:

Previously in high school your teachers would make you aware of your due dates as and when they were nearing.

You were never really aware of the road that lay ahead.

In university you can access the bigger picture, at the click of a button.

Most, if not all universities, have student-portals where students can log in with their credentials and explore the entire academic curriculum for the module of interest.

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2. CLOTHING

This is definitely one of the first advantages of being a college student.

You get to wear what you want, how you want, when you want. Nobody will look at you differently for having a unique taste in your dress-code.

The migration from a prescribed wardrobe to that of a carte blanch variety is really refreshing. Each day is something different: jeans and slops on one day, sneakers and tank tops the next.

Now I know exactly what you’re thinking: those are seriously strange combinations.

And you would be right, they are truly peculiar and ’unique’ combinations to assemble, but if there is one thing that you’ll learn pretty quickly, it’s that campus life is not a fashion show.

Remember what I was saying about nobody thinking twice about what you are wearing?!

If anything, the ultimate goal is to be as comfortable as possible because the days can be rather long at times.

And that takes us to our next point…

feet with red and white striped socks

3. LENGTH OF THE DAY

As a fresher coming straight out of high school this is quite the adjustment.

Gone are the days of having x-number of classes with 1-2 breaks in between at regular intervals. Welcome to varsity. Where a 07.30 am – 17.30 pm isn’t exactly uncommon.

OR

You can hit the jackpot. And have 2 or fewer classes in the day – sometimes none at all.

Be prepared for going from class to class, back to back with the odd break here and there…

almost empty hourglass
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4. WORKLOAD

Common sense says that if you are spending more time in class then more work will be covered.

It is a reality that you will just need to accept.

It will take some time for you to adjust. Though the sooner you can, the better.

Because you get thrown into the deep end so quickly, begin to mentally prepare yourself for this change.

You will become swamped with work. You will feel overwhelmed at times.

To counteract this, try working on creating a system – that works for you – to manage all of your admin logically.

Trust me, you will thank yourself later.

Related: Power-House Productivity Strategies

notepad& pen, iPhone, USB, stickynotes, pencils and keyboard neatly organised on tabletop

5. TEACHING

The days of sitting in a relatively intimate learning environment are gone.

A typical lecture can be upwards of 600 students at one time.

It’s busy and it’s packed. So, don’t expect the professor to explain the content in great-depth.

Typically, the lecturers will browse through the content, extract the information, and then simply highlight, and make you aware of the important sections.

The responsibility then falls upon you – the student – to go home and work through the content yourself.

empty auditorium with red cushioned seating

6. FREEDOM

Bless the f-word. It’s the word that’s been on the tip of your tongue for oh-so-long now.

It’s is such a defining moment in your life as a student, and it feels bliss.

You suddenly will ‘actually’, have choices:

  • Do I want to go to class?
  • Am I going to study now?
  • Will I be ditching my 17.30 pm lecture?

I think you get the point.

It’s great, it really is.

But with all that freedom comes a whole host of other responsibilities

orange haired man holding poster with diverging arrows going opposite directions
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7. LEARNING MATERIAL

Probably one of the biggest frustrations during your schooling career is just having to accept whatever material needs to be studied.

In college, there is such a wide variety of different courses to choose from. The keyword being ‘’choose’’.

Now I am not saying that everything you study will be butterflies and rainbows.

Reality check: there will still be content that you won’t want to study.

BUT

For the majority of the time it’ll be work that you actually may just find interesting and of some form of relevance to you.

woman having thoughts about herself in different career fields: businesswoman, nurse, chef, construction worker, doctor

8. TEXTBOOKS

If there is one thing that is going to hurt your wallet it will be this.

In high school you can buy a textbook for a pretty fair price.

University textbooks are a completely different story.

These things are expensive.

You can expect anything up to a 5x price-hike.

If you are ‘unlucky’ then it could even be more than that.

man holding bag of money near a bookshelf

9. ANONYMITY

This point in my opinion is actually one of the biggest advantages of being a student.

There’s no longer anything ‘special’ about you. You are just another face in the crowd.

So how is this exactly an advantage?

Well, for one it gives you the chance to start fresh, explore new things and meet new people.

There are endless opportunities to expand your social network and really just grow as an individual.

You get to focus on yourself.

Because of this lack of recognition, you’ll also find that this is one of the best times to try out new things because there is a somewhat impersonal nature about University.

Nobody is going to give you a hard time for failing to make a success of something new to you.

Your academics might be quite the opposite. In fact, in that area of your student-life you still might catch some flack.

blurred image of a large crowd
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10. FRIENDSHIPS

Naturally, some bonds will fade and others will form.

This is the ultimate time to create new connections with people: the majority of students are open and approachable.

Let’s be real, us youngsters are never ones to turn down the opportunity of making new mates.

Though this also bears a certain aspect of risk to it. Our so-called ‘guard’ will be let down which isn’t altogether a bad thing, but it certainly can allow for the opportunity for toxic relationships to brew.

So, I’m not saying you should do a full CIA-style background check on a prospective friend.

Because if there is one thing that will chase people away, it’ll be this – going FBI agent on them.

Rather just be mindful that you are now in the big world and there is a minority that doesn’t always have the best of intentions.

three young adults sitting on stairs with coffee in the hands whilst posing for a selfie

11. TIME-MANAGEMENT

Wow, this is a big one.

We kind of mentioned it a little earlier as well, but it does deserve its very-own nomination.

The overall pace of life as a student is lightning quick.

You will soon reach the point where you identify that there just isn’t enough time to do all that you had wished to.

This is partly to pay to the fact that your typical day-to-day schedule is irregular. There isn’t any ‘’one size fits all’’ schedule.

What works for you on a Tuesday might not work for you come Wednesday.

It’s a highly flexible routine.

Related: Student Time Management Strategies

hand holding a digital calendar icon

12. GROUP WORK

Now in high school you definitely would have had group projects.

So, this won’t be anything new to you.

BUT

Just know that a lot of the work in university ends up being group work – out of choice.

The content is already difficult as is, so having a pal to work through the assignment with you can only help.

Also, it helps to use it as an excuse for not wanting to work and rather socialize…

multiple hands outstretched on table holding phones/ coffee mugs in a circle
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13. CAMPUS

The size of the campus is enormous.

Be prepared to walk, and walk, and walk, and walk, and walk.

Get lost.

Repeat.

Pro-tip: Google maps can be quite helpful in navigating your way around the place.

Side note: I would recommend finding yourself a comfortable pair of walking-friendly shoes, because there’s a lot of that going on at university – you’ll see!

lady looking at a global map with a notepad& pen, handbag, smartwatch, phone and credit card laid out in front of her

14. AGE GROUPS

Now school typically works in streamlining everyone according to their ages.

You move up in grades and 99% of the time everyone in your grade has the same birth year – barring 1 or 2.

University works a little bit differently. Here there is no prerequisite for how old you need to be to take a certain course.

Because of this, you can be sitting in a class with any number of varying ages.

The general baseline is typically 18, but that can then go on to any age you can possibly think of.

There really isn’t any time limit for when you can/ can’t be a student.

classroom with two young adults working at the back and an elderly working in the foreground

15. DISCOUNTS

This is definitely a favorite perk for many students.

Your degree/ course is pretty much a full-time job. So you can imagine that it doesn’t leave much time to look at getting a side-hustle.

It’s for this reason that many different companies tend to offer discounts specifically aimed at accommodating students.

As students, we don’t always have the greatest flexibility when it comes to finances.

So initiatives such as student discounts are always greatly appreciated.

The notorious ”student-budget” is a real thing so you’ll want to make sure to save money wherever you can.

-10% red discount sign
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And that’s university life, in a nutshell.

Obviously, there are plenty of other micro-differences between the 2 learning environments.

As a high-level-overview – for a prospective student – I feel like this is a good starting point.

I WANT TO KNOW FROM YOU:

Got any questions about anything – leave a comment and I’d be more than happy to help you find the answer.

Feel like I have left something off of the listleave a comment: I’m interested in hearing from you