How is College Different from High School?


How is College Different from High School?: Pointers to Help Students Make the Transition  to College

By: Cheryle D. Snead-Greene, Ph.D., Head Academic Coach, Prairie View A&M University, NTA Board Member

*The top 10 ways that high school is different from college are listed below:

1. In high school… Your teachers constantly remind you of due dates and upcoming tests and quizzes.

1. While in college…Once the professor lists the dates on the course calendar or syllabus, he or she assumes students are capable of obtaining this information on their own without the constant reminders.

2. In high school…Students basically attend school every day for the same hours – so there is quite a bit of structure and sameness to your days.

2. While in college…Classes typically meet only two or three times a week and students have large gaps between classes, leading to very little structure – and often a bit too much freedom that some students cannot handle well.

3. In high school…Students often spend time in class completing assignments to fill class time – what some students refer to as “busywork.”

3. While in college…The bulk of class time is spent taking notes or participating in discussions – not completing homework or other graded assignments.

4. In high school…Teachers often teach to the test – typically feeding students all the information needed to study for exams.

4. While in college…Professors often lecture about much more material than you’ll ever be tested upon — for the sake of knowledge — though you will still need to understand both what material will be tested and the best way for you to study it.

5. In high school…Many students could do very well academically by simply studying an hour or two a week – or by cramming for a test the night before.

5. While in college…The best students cite the importance – and need – to study and prepare for classes on a daily basis. The standard rule is students need to spend three hours of work outside of class for every hour spent in class.

6. In high school…Your teachers are both subject experts and trained educators and in theory know the latest and greatest methods to teach the material.

6. While in college…Your professors – many of whom hold doctoral degrees – are experts in their fields and trained researchers (who must continue to publish to stay academically qualified to teach), but their teaching methods and lecture styles may be completely different from anything you have experienced.

7. In high school…Your teachers keep a watchful eye on your progress and will contact you or your family if your grades are faltering.

7. While in college…Your professors may well be aware of your progress – or lack of it – but most expect their students to initiate discussions about grades and/or seek assistance – all of which is done during your professor’s office hours.

8. In high school…Your reading assignments are fairly light, and some is done in class — whether through individual reading or lecturing straight from the book.

8. While in college…You can expect a very heavy load of reading – all of it done outside of class. Some of the reading may be discussed in class, but even without discussing it, the professor may choose to test you on it.

9. In high school…Students are often spoon-fed all the information, with a focus on facts and memorization.

9.While in college…Students are expected to think – and learn – beyond the facts to develop complex understanding of information and theories from multiple sources.

10.In high school…Students who are struggling can get extra credit for completing additional assignments, improving your overall grade.

10.While in college…Students who are struggling are encouraged to seek extra help and tutoring, but very few college professors offer any type of extra credit.

*Data from

Article from the National Tutoring Association Newsletter Winter 2016