4 Ways College Is Different From High School

Really, really messy dorm room - clothes, food, everything everywhere
July 21, 2020

Out of all the students and graduates, I have coached throughout the years, the one thing they all seem to have in common in that they weren’t adequately prepared for the next phase of their life. All of them are referring to the real world and life in corporate America. However, most of them often speak about how difficult it was to adjust to college life after spending the last four years in high school. To avoid the missteps of the grads before you and to ensure your transition is an easier one, We have compiled the four ways college is different from high school and what you can do to prepare accordingly.

#1 – Class Size

This one catches people off guard because most students know that their college classes will be larger than those they attended in high school. You have already seen the lecture halls on the campus tours and are aware that you will be taking some of your classes with 50 or even 100 other students. What surprises first-year students is how different the actual learning experience is. You are no longer guaranteed to get your question answered if you raise your hand. The chances are high that you won’t have a personal relationship with your teacher either. You will be expected to learn quickly, take good notes, and figure things out on your own.

If this does not sound like your ideal learning situation, you should keep this in mind when applying to colleges. While large lecture halls may be unavoidable for some of your core classes, make sure that your major classes are smaller. When you take a course in this type of setting, take detailed notes, and pay attention. Also, be aware of your teacher’s office hours. This is your opportunity to meet with them in a personal setting to review anything you don’t understand. Remember, you have to make an appointment to do this, so do not wait until the last minute before a big test.

#2 – Attendance

If I were to ask you what is the number one reason you don’t skip class, it would be because you don’t want to get in trouble. In high school, and the years leading up to it, if you missed a class, you got detention, and your parents were notified. You have been unknowingly conditioned to attend class out of fear of the consequences. When you go to college, there are no more consequences. If you miss a class, your teacher marks it down and moves on. No one else finds out about it. This is where most freshmen get in trouble.

The critical thing to remember here is that while your teacher doesn’t notify your parents, they may deduct it from your grade. At the start of the semester, be sure to scan the class syllabus for the professors’ attendance policy. When you are aware of how missing a class will lower your grade, your motivation to attend suddenly returns. However, you really shouldn’t need consequences to attend the courses you are paying for. Remember why you applied to college in the first place and the goals you have set out for yourself.

#3 – Class Length

Some of the high school students I work with get very excited about the idea of only having to take certain classes two or three times a week. What they don’t realize is that those classes can be between 60 and 90 minutes. This can be a difficult adjustment for someone who is used to all there classes being under 45 minutes. It is even more difficult for someone who struggles to pay attention and takes poor notes. Longer classes mean more information is being covered. If you decide to zone out or skip the class altogether, you will be missing a significant amount of learning and knowledge.

The easiest way to stay focused during longer classes is to take consistent notes. If you have something to do, you are less likely to zone out and miss something. You can take this a step further by creating an organized process for your note-taking. Determine how to structure your notes in a way that will allow you to refer back to them in the future quickly. Also, be sure to get enough sleep the night before. The better rested you are, the more energy you will have to pay attention in class.

#4 – Living Environment

This one pertains specifically to those students who will be going away to college. It is natural and expected to be excited about dorming at college and living on your own. You can finally enjoy the freedom you have been longing for. However, that newfound freedom is one of the top reasons, so many freshmen end up coming back home after their first year away. Living at college is a complete lifestyle change and can be a culture shock for anyone who does prepare for it.

First off, you no longer have your parents around to bug you to do things. You are entirely on your own to wake yourself up, make sure you eat, clean your clothes, go to class, and study for tests. If you do not already know how to do any of the things on that list, you are going to have a problem. Second, when living in a dorm, there will always be someone around who is doing something more fun than studying or homework. It will be incredibly easy to seek these people out and blow off your schoolwork. This type of mindset is what sends more than half freshman home to attend a local college there the second year.

The first step to avoiding this type of disaster is making a list of everything your parents currently do for you. By the time you go off on your own, you should be able to do everything on that list. Second, commit to completing all of your schoolwork in the library. It is ideal to complete your work before you even return to the dorms. This way, you can relax with your friends and not worry about being distracted and missing any crucial assignments.

Conclusion

As an incoming freshman, you have every right to be excited about college and what lies ahead for you. The key is to take it seriously and prepare yourself accordingly. Take the time before you graduate to understand what skills you need to learn and what type of environment you need to succeed. Determine why you are going to college and what kind of person you want to become. Once you figure that out, you will have the focus and motivation you need to transition into and succeed in college.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

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