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

College Level Courses in High School


Many schools offer a variety of college level classes including AP, IB, or classes provided by a local college.  Many of these classes require a minimum grade average to enroll and continue the class.  The are many advantages to these classes.  Taking college levels classes in high school shows colleges and potential employers that you are serious about your education.  These classes can also help prepare you for college level work with the support and help your high school teachers provide. Lastly, the count for college credit.  These classes will allow you to take less general education classes in college since you already completed them.

Recommended Downloads:High School Course Planning Sheet

Download these resources for free at

College Essays


Many colleges require students to write an essay.  The essay helps the college to decide if you would be a good fit to the school.  Your essay should be personal and different.  Essay topics fall into 3 basic categories: personal, academic, or discussion.  Don’t forget to download our free Proof Reading Check List.


  • Don’t wait until the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time to plan, write, and revise your essay.
  • Have a friend or family member proofread your essay.  They might find something that you missed.
  • Type your essay in a standard font and size 12.
  • Make your essay stand out and personal. Each school receives thousands of essays; you want them to remember your essay.
  • Your essay should be about 500-600 words. Don’t make your essay too long or too short.
  • Give specific examples.
  • Be honest.

Topic ideas

  • Personal
    • Pick an event in your life that made you who you are.
    • What is your biggest accomplishment?
    • When did you fail at something and how did you handle it?
  • Academic
    • Why you want to attend a particular school.
    • What you want to do and why. (How you will contribute to the world with your degree.
    • Why you want to attend college.
  • Discussion
    • Both sides of a political problem.
    • How to make the world a better place.
    • Both sides of a social problem.

High School Transcript


As a senior there is not that much that you can do about your transcript. Your transcript consists of all of your classes and the grades from each class.  If you are unhappy with your transcript there are a few things that you can do.

  1. You can study and try to improve your grade.  You can attend extra help, go to peer tutoring, or hire a professional tutor.
  2. You can try to take an extra elective or two.  High schools offer many choices of electives.  It is also helpful to see what your interests are to help you decide on a possible college major.

As an underclassman you still have many opportunities to improve your transcript.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  Start taking control of your education now.  Study and maintain a good average. Take a few electives instead of extra study halls.  You will be surprised; you may find a new interest or hidden ability.

College Recommendation Letters


Colleges and most jobs require a letter of recommendation.  In high school you ask your teachers for the letters of recommendation.  You should try to get 3 letters.

Remember that you are not the only student. Ask the teacher early so they have time to write all of the letters.

  1. When you ask the teacher be polite and remember to say please and thank you.
  2. You have teachers from all 4 years of high school, you can ask any if them for a letter.
  3. Try to give the teacher all of the forms at once so they can include the same letter easily.

If you are an underclassman you still have time. Make sure you have a few teachers that are able to write a letter of recommendation for you.  If not, now is the time to try to connect with some teachers.  Personalized letters look better for colleges the the teacher must know you to be and to write one.

College Application Resume


Most of you have never written a resume before. A resume is used to show your background and skills.  You write important accomplishments and experience that pertain to what you are applying for.  Your resume should show that you are well rounded and have different experiences.

Education: Include the name and location of your high school.  Write the name of the degree that you will be receiving.  Also be sure to include any awards and honors that you received.  If you were a member of any honor societies you should also include them.

Experience:  If you had a part time or temporary job while you were in high school this is where you would include it.  Any summer job or retail job should and listed.  You sound include the company’s name, location, job title, and your responsibilities.  Write what you were required to do while at work.  Some examples are: ring up the customer’s purchase, count the drawer at the end of my shift, provide change to the customer, stock shelves, assist customers find items, clear the table, take the drink order, seat customers, help watch the children during activities, run the arts and crafts table, take children to the bathroom, ext.

Extracurricular activities:  List the clubs, sports teams, or other extracurricular activities that you were part of in school.  If you held a leadership position, such as captain, president, secretary, or treasurer you should also include that under the name of the activity.

Community Service: If you volunteered or did any community service project while you were in high school this is where you would include it.   You sound include the organization’s name, location, job title, and your responsibilities.  Write what you were required to do while at work.