9 Differences Between High School and College

Transitioning from high school to college is so exciting! But just like any major life change, it can also be a challenge. Simply being aware of the major differences between high school and college (and taking the initiative to prepare for those adjustments) can help make the transition more smooth. Here are a few of the differences we think are most notable:

You’ll have more free-time. 

In high school, you spend around seven hours a day in class. Most college students, on the other hand, spend only three to four hours in class during an average day. This means there’s plenty of extra time to spend however you choose, whether that’s hanging out with friends, working a part-time job, or participating in an extra-curricular activity.

But you’ll also have more work.

Although you will spend less time in class, you should expect to dedicate a considerable amount of your “free” time to studying and homework. A standard rule of thumb: for every one hour you spend in class, plan to spend about two to three hours on homework and studying. We know, we know—that seems like a lot. But you can spend that time studying wherever you study best, whether that’s the library, a coffee shop, on a blanket beneath the trees, or from the comfort of your new dorm room.

Course options will increase dramatically.

Chances are you were able to choose a few electives in high school, but many of your classes were pre-selected for you in order to meet standard graduation requirements. In college, once you decide on a major, the classes you take will start to reflect your interests. You’ll be able to study topics you’re interested in—and you’ll be surrounded by classmates who really want to learn. You’ll also have general education requirements, but many of these give you an opportunity to explore interests outside your major, whether that’s theater, bioethics, or mastering another language.

You’ll apply your classroom knowledge to the real world.

In high school, much of your learning focused on memorization and reiteration. Since college is all about preparing you for a future career, you’ll be asked to use critical thinking to apply information in real-world scenarios. It’s a shift from simply knowing the facts to asking why that information matters and how to use it. (For example, Bethel business students learn about the stock market by managing real financial investments for companies.)

There’s often free food.

Free food on a college campus is easy to find—you just need to know where to look! Be on the lookout for on-campus events hosted by a variety of groups: student activity associations, residence halls, cultural groups, special interest clubs, and organizations. From potluck treats to catered meals, get involved and you won’t go hungry.

You’ll never be bored.

In your ventures to track down free food, you’ll probably learn about some cool on-campus organizations and activities in the process. You can spend your Tuesday and Thursday nights at intramural volleyball, join the swing dance club, or find a small group that meets regularly. Most colleges also have an organization designated specifically to planning on- and off-campus events that are either free or super cheap.

 You get to experience roommate life.  

Living with roommates can be a blast—but it can also be an adjustment. Some people find lifelong friends in their dorm hall their very first year, but also know that if you and your freshman roommate don’t become BFFs, that’s totally okay. Just be sure to talk with them about boundaries and expectations at the very beginning of the year. How will you manage chores? Will you have designated “quiet hours” to respect each other’s sleeping habits? Is it okay to have visitors? Communication on the front end is key to avoiding tension later in the year.

You’re on your own! Kind of.

We’re going to get real for a minute. While college brings you a lot more freedom than you may have had in high school, you’ll also gain more responsibilities. You’ll make your own decisions, from what you eat to when you sleep. You’ll be responsible for getting to class on time, meeting assignment deadlines, and seeking out help if you need it. Creating your own schedule, managing your money, cleaning up after yourself—it all falls on you. But if all that sounds overwhelming, don’t panic. Every other freshman around you is walking through similar things. And every other upperclassman (like your RA!) walked through it recently too.

The world is your oyster.

In college, there are countless opportunities to try new activities and explore your interests. You can participate in a club sport, join an environmental awareness group, study abroad, or take guitar lessons. This is your time to adventure. Enjoy it!

Still exploring colleges and curious about what Bethel has to offer? Start here.