How Are College & High School Classes Different?


If you do not have a family member who has been to college, you may think that college is much like high school, only bigger. Some noticeable differences exist between the two, especially within the classroom. Professors expect you to study more, and tests often carry more weight than they did in high school. Learning about the classroom differences can increase your chances of thriving when you set foot on the college campus.


  • The concept of time is entirely different when you arrive at college. In high school, parents and teachers typically had a say in your schedule. In college, a student arranges his own schedule. Students must take responsibility for their choices and manage their own time appropriately without constant reminders from adults. This means juggling classes, studying, activities and possibly a job all on your own. If you miss a class or forget to turn in an assignment in college, do not go to your teacher for the notes. In college, professors expect you to get any information that you missed from your classmates. And if you miss a test or quiz in college, makeups are rarely offered. If you know you will miss a quiz, discuss this with your professor ahead of time. You may be able to prearrange a makeup if your professor sees your absence as excusable.

Classroom Differences

  • In high school, you spent about six hours a day in school. This equals 30 hours of class time per week. When you reach college, that number drops significantly. College students spend between 12 to 18 hours a week in the classroom. Instead of heading from one class to another, in college, you may have hours between classes. Classes also can vary in length from 50 minutes to several hours. In high school, you often received classroom time to study or complete homework. In college, expect classroom time to be for instruction only. Studying and homework are done on your own time.

Classes and Studying

  • In high school, you may not have spent much time studying. Yet, in college, you can anticipate studying at least two to three hours for each hour you spend in class. In high school, your grades are often based on a variety of tests, quizzes, homework and classroom assignments. In college, tests and significant papers make up the majority of your grade. Failing just one test can have a much bigger impact on your grade in college.

Classes and Disabilities

  • If you suffer from a disability, you can anticipate seeing a difference in accommodations when you arrive at college. In high school, federal law ensures that all students have academic success. This law is behind the Individualized Education Program, which lists a student’s strengths, weaknesses and accommodations. In the K-12 system, the IEP ensures that students are successful, while in college, these programs only ensure access. Success is up to the student.

    A college only has to provide equal access to all classes, programs and services. Unlike in high school when your parents could serve as your advocate, now you must do all of the work. If you require additional services, you must seek out assistance from the university’s disability resource center, where you can request accommodations if you provide documentation to support your needs.

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