BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HIGH SCHOOL
Many students -- especially those
who do not have a family member who has been to college -- think college
is pretty much like high school, only bigger. But there are some very
big differences. Many students who did not do well in high school "blossom"
in college. Others never get used to college life and do not do as well
as they did in high school. Much of how college will differ depends on
To be prepared, it helps you to know what differences lie ahead. Though
academic requirements and student life vary depending on the college you
attend, there are basic differences that apply in almost every case. Here
are some ways you can expect college to be different from high school:
Because you will probably be over
18 years old in college, you will be treated like an adult. This is because
you will be an adult. As an adult, you will have to make sure you do what
you're supposed to do, you will be responsible for the way you live, and
you will have to meet greater expectations from others.
Generally, there are fewer rules and regulations imposed by others in
college. You will be expected to make and stick to your own schedule,
as well as keep up on all your work. Most professors do not take attendance
in class -- they expect you to be there to learn. And whether or not you
learn is your responsibility. Many students, after a brief period of adjustment,
will settle into a balanced lifestyle of work and play. Those who don't
usually do not make it through their first year.
In college, you will take on more responsibility for your decisions, actions,
and lifestyle. This is part of being on your own. Professors and administrators
will probably not give you a hard time about your clothes, your hair,
or your general behavior (within bounds). But do be prepared to be held
accountable for your behavior. There is no one to blame for not waking
up on time, not eating properly, or not washing your clothes.
People will expect more of you and expect you to develop in your own unique
way in college. In high school, you are often expected to behave or perform
to a minimum standard. Some people will expect you to go beyond minimal
performance in college, so you can grow and develop as a person. You will
also begin to realize what a great effect you can have -- both positive
and negative -- on yourself, on others, and on the world around you. This
can be both exciting and frightening.
In college, you will be free to explore numerous paths and interests
that were simply not open to you in high school. There are more foreign
languages, arts, and sciences offered in college. Subjects like philosophy
and religion also are taught at college but probably not in high school.
Some subjects are taught differently in college. In high school, for instance,
history may have been mainly names, dates, and places. You had to memorize
facts and figures. In college, those facts are not nearly as important
as why certain events and actions happened. In college English, less time
may be spent on grammar and spelling (it is assumed you have mastered
these) and more on writing creatively and criticizing literature. If you
major in one of the sciences, you will find that in your junior and
senior years, you may be designing your own experiments rather than doing
exactly what everyone else in your class is doing. In foreign languages,
you will be reading literature in its original language rather than just
repeating phrases. And you may be able to work and study in another country
for a semester or year.
Be open to falling in love with a subject in college that you may have
disliked in high school. Two-thirds of college students graduate with
a different major than the one they had in mind when they started -- often
because they found an old subject taught in a new and more interesting
Many classes will be organized differently from the traditional high school
lecture class. Some will be big lecture classes followed by small discussion
groups. Some professors will have you read books, write papers, and discuss
both in class. You may even have the chance to read independently with
a professor or design your own research projects. Grading will be different,
too. In some classes, you will have nothing but essay tests. In others,
your entire grade will be determined by a single large paper or project.
You may even have classes in which a group project is the primary grade.
In high school, you are often graded on whether or not you learn
certain things. For example, there are standardized tests given to
show that you have achieved a minimum level in certain subjects. In college,
you are often graded "on the curve;" your grade is determined more by
how well you did in relation to your classmates than on a minimum knowledge
base. This means there is more one-on-one competition between students.
For example, receiving an 85 percent on a test in high school may have
automatically been a B. In college, if most people did better than that,
it could be a C or C-.
You may have been in the top 10 or 15 percent of your high school class,
but at college most of your fellow students were also in the top 10 or
15 percent of their high school classes. You may have found it easy to
make a 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) grade point average in high school. Earning
a 3.5 in college will take much more effort.
High school is a place you go to seven or eight hours a day, less than
half the days of the year. Many colleges are set up to be your home --
you will eat and sleep there, spend time off there, make new friends there,
even do your laundry there. Therefore, chances are good that college will
have an even greater effect on you than high school did. In fact, it will
be a time in your life like no other.
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