Have no doubt about it: There are major differences between high school and college, so prepare yourself. Below are seven differences you will experience when you leave high school to become a college student.
The choice is yours: The schools you have attended to this point have most likely been based on your location. If not, your parents probably chose the option they liked best for you, opting for a private school, perhaps, rather than the one whose attendance area you fell in. The next step, though, in your education is yours. You decide if you want a community college or a university, whether you want to stay in state or try a new location, etc.
The best education for you, as determined by you: In all your schooling, you’ve had to follow the general curriculum programs your schools have set for you. Though you may have been able to pick an elective here and there, you generally did not have much say in what you studied. When you enter college, you get to decide what you want to learn. Dream of being a lawyer? Try pre-law. Want to work for a big accounting firm? Become an accounting major. Love reading and talking about books? An English major might be for you. And many colleges and universities give their students opportunities to craft their own majors.
College courses do not run the same as high school classes: At large universities, it’s common to attend classes in lecture halls with hundreds of students. The teaching style in these huge classes is also different than that of the high-school environment: In-class activities and discussion are replaced by lots of focused listening and note-taking. Though you can expect some smaller groups for specific courses, chances are good you will get some experience with the big lecture halls—especially early on, when you’re taking lower-level courses. In addition, the grading system is different. It’s rare to get a bunch of homework assignments that help you build your grade. Instead, you tend to have fewer assignments and tests. This adds pressure to the assignments that are given, as they count heavily in your final grade.
Keeping everything in focus: Though we often hate to admit it, it’s probably a good thing parents keep us on track with homework, grades, etc. In college, there is none of that. You live without any real adult supervision or reminders, and the distractions are endless. The parties, events, organizations, and sporting opportunities are constant. With so many fun things to do and few people to remind you to do what is needed, balancing everything is a huge learning experience. It comes down to you: Only you can decide what you want/need to get done for the day, and only you can tune out the fun until you accomplish it.
With freedom comes responsibility: If you decide, as many students do, to leave the dorm to rent an apartment or house, you will have to pay your bills. As it might be your first time, here’s how it works: An envelope arrives in the mail or you get an email alert, and you become solely responsible for getting the demanded payment in on time. Rent is due each month and requires some planning. Even if your parents have graciously decided to help cover expenses, living on your own requires you to become responsible enough to at least monitor due dates and alert your parents to when bills need to be paid.
Roommates can be tricky: Most of us have not lived with anyone aside from our siblings and/or parents until this point. The thought of living with friends compared with family members may sound like a walk in the park, and it does bring a huge sense of independence and enjoyment. Roommate conflict, though, is nearly impossible to avoid altogether. They may sometimes eat your food, use your personal items, make a lot of noise with friends while you’re stocking up on sleep before a huge exam, etc. The bottom line is that you will need to find ways to work your problems out by communicating clearly and establishing grown-up things like cleaning schedules, clear rules about visiting hours, and so on.
So long to high school’s structured schedule: You will not have class all day from 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., or something like that. You will be able to schedule your classes the way you want, to some degree, which is pretty exciting. If you get all the classes you’d like at the times you’d like, you can even find ways to have entire days off each week that you can use as study/work/rest days.
MyStudentPath features articles and videos for students to help them succeed with life after high school, including perspectives of other teens who have gone through or are currently going through the same transition.