Seven Ways College is Different From High School

By Huntington Learning Center

You’ve been telling your teen for a while now: college is very different from high school. But how exactly? Here are seven of the biggest ways that the two differ to make your teen aware of:

  1. There’s no hand-holding. High school students are expected to manage all schoolwork on their own. This is also the expectation in college, but a big difference is that there are no parents around to remind, prod, or lecture. If your high schooler is not a self-starter by now, it’s time for you to take a step back.
  2. Teachers expect students to put in the work. In many ways, college has much less busywork than high school, but that doesn’t mean students get to take it easy. Like high school teachers, college professors expect students to keep up with all studying and homework so that they are prepared for exams – but unlike high school teachers, they won’t make sure of that. Staying on top of the work is up to college students, and it’s also up to them to reach out for help when needed.
  3. Your teen is in charge. For better or worse, your teen completely takes the reins in college, maybe for the first time. College requires independence and the ability to weigh and make decisions with confidence. It is essential that your teen is capable of problem-solving without the input of you or anyone else.
  4. Class expectations can vary widely. Some classes might have weekly quizzes and one final exam. Others might assign a large research project that carries throughout the term. Some professors might change their scope on assignments mid-semester. Although not a hard-and-fast rule, your teen should understand that classes in college might operate much differently from those in high school. Your teen will need to be adaptable and resourceful.
  5. Time management can make or break students’ success. Some high school students are able to limp along in high school with poor time management skills, but this will become problematic in college, when there are many social opportunities and a heavier workload. A homework planner system in high school is important, but in college, that system needs to be in place in order to minimize stress and procrastination.
  6. Students have much more freedom. One thing your teen is probably looking most forward to is the ability to do whatever they want in college! But with that freedom comes the expectation that your teen can successfully balance the want-tos and the have-tos and will take ownership and responsibility for their performance. The consequences of blowing off school are significant, so it’s essential that your teen remains focused on the important things and doesn’t get completely distracted by all the fun.
  7. The stakes are different. There’s no question that the stakes in high school are much higher than those in middle school, because students’ academic records can get them into college (or not) and affect their school and scholarship options. In college, your student’s progress and performance matter too, but for different reasons. Post-college, your student will get a job or continue on for graduate school. Your teen needs to use college as a chance to figure out the future.

High school is a critical time in your teen’s development. Help your teen navigate this time of transition by letting them take charge, fail, learn, and adjust – which will get your teen ready for college. If you have concerns, call Huntington. We’ll help your teen become college-ready and prepare for this exciting stage.