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4 key differences between high school and college academics

University building
University building
iStockphoto

College looks different, feels different, and to most students, it’s essentially a whole different world. You’ll be eating mass-prepared food at dining halls, sharing a room that’s probably smaller than your current bedroom with someone you’ve likely never met, and of course, finding a new sense of freedom.

However, the main differences you need to account for are academic. Here are four key academic changes you’ll face as you transition from high school to university.

Success is completely up to you
Your professors are always there to help, but they will not closely monitor your improvements. Many professors don’t even take attendance or work to make sure you are keeping up with readings. There are typically no provided study guides or chapter recaps; essentially, professors will not be holding your hand along the way.

Professors usually lecture for one to two hours at a time, requiring students to independently take notes. Their lectures may or may not be consistent with the reading materials, so you’ll often need to identify the most important topics on your own. Additionally, professors won’t hand out textbooks – it’s your responsibility to locate and purchase them.

Less class time, more study time
You’ll probably be amazed when you see your college semester of only 12-16 credit hours spaced nicely across the week. The strict 8 am to 3 pm schedule doesn’t exist in college. However, that’s not to suggest you’ll have more free time. Remember that college coursework requires much more thought and effort than high school assignments – and don’t forget the time you’ll need budget for your extra-curricular activities! Many students go into college thinking they can continue to study for a mere three to five hours per week, but that is simply not the case.

Testing
In high school, you may have weekly quizzes and bi-weekly tests that review small amounts of material – this makes it much easier for teachers to track students’ progress, and it gives students the opportunity to make up a bad test.

In college, however, you might only have one final exam, and that exam could be your entire grade. Testing will vary with different professors, but don’t expect several tests and projects.

Curriculum
In college, you could get straight A’s every single semester and still possibly not graduate on time. You get more flexibility when choosing classes, but it’s up to you to make sure you complete all of your mandatory courses. You can always schedule meetings with academic advisors to make sure you’re meeting requirements, but you likely won’t get a warning notice if you fall behind.

These changes may easily overwhelm a budding high school graduate upon first glance, but with a little preparation, any student can smoothly transition into them. Start adjusting to these ideas now and you will be well ahead of the game when you step onto that campus in August.

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