High School vs College: 5 Things You Should Expect

If you are thinking about going to college after high school, you might be wondering how different the experience is going to be.

High school is intended to prepare you for adulthood, but college is often where you end up finding yourself and the person you are going to become. That’s the main factor in comparing high school vs college, but there’s a lot more to consider when you wonder “is college different from high school?

The high school years are pivotal to your growth, but a lot of what you’ve learned and discovered during high school starts to be put to use in college. A big part of high school is forming good habits and learning how to learn, and then college and university are when you test yourself.

Of course, there are going to be differences between the two. College gives you more freedom, responsibilities, and ownership of your time than ever before.

It will take some time to get used to these changes, but if you keep up with your classes, readings, and assignments you should have no trouble excelling in college. 

Now, let’s look at some of the largest differences between high school vs college and how to navigate them successfully.

High School vs College: Is college different than high school?

High School vs College

Yes, college is different than high school. Here’s why…

1. College is voluntary and gives you big advantages

Unlike high school where attendance is mandatory and tuition is usually free, college is voluntary with expensive tuition. For this reason, you might want to make sure college is something that you want to do before you rack up thousands in debt.

When applying for college, see if there are any scholarships you can apply for to help cover your costs, too.

But don’t let this dissuade you from going to college, because a post-secondary education is one of the very best investments you can make in yourself and in your career. People who go to college and university earn a substantially higher income, on average, than people who don’t.

Granted, there’s always famous high school dropouts who can skew the perceptions, but if you look at things in a practical sense, going to college is a really good idea if you want to have a better career. It’s not the only factor that will determine this, but it’s a huge difference when it comes to college vs high school.

Check out the disadvantages of dropping out of high school.

2. You are 100% responsible for your learning in college 

Don’t expect your college professor to remind you about assignments or reach out like your high school teachers or guidance counselor. Although many college professors will be helpful when students approach them, it’s up to you to make the first move.

Additionally, you will likely have to keep up with your textbook and class readings on your own, and depending on your school, you might not talk about the information you’ve been reading in class so again, ask your professor for clarification if needed. 

3. You’ll meet a lot of different people in college 

College is much more diverse than your typical high school, which is usually comprised of students living in the neighborhood.

You will have more opportunities to meet people from different areas of the world, backgrounds, and ages in a college environment. Although this is great for learning new beliefs, cultures, and practices, it might take some time to get used to it if you aren’t used to being around people from different backgrounds, but it’s important and a very good thing.

Nonetheless, bear in mind that people who go to college are still selected from the group of people who are able to do that. So, there are still a lot of lower-income people, working class families, people with learning disabilities, and plenty of others who won’t make it to college.

4. You have more control over what you learn in college vs high school

choosing college classes

College gives students more freedom when it comes to choosing classes. Although you will be required to take a certain amount of core credits in areas like Science, English, or Social Sciences there are far more options for students to choose from when studying in college.

This could include courses about literature, speech, psychology, economics, physics, or biology. The options are almost endless!

There are some college courses that are 100% practical and useful towards your future career, and other ones that may just be interesting and can give you different perspectives on the world, which can be just as useful, but in a different way.

5. You spend less time in the classroom

In high school, you can expect to be at school from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm each day. You might take six one-hour classes or four 90-minute classes with short breaks between each class. In college, there might be hours between classes, and you’ll find that you spend significantly less time inside of a classroom.

On average, college students spend 12 to 16 hours in the classroom per week versus the 30 hours of a high-schooler. Don’t let this fool you though! You will need to spend around 2 to 3 hours of studying per hour of class time when you’re in college (depending on your courses and what-not, that’s just a rule of thumb).

See more: Dropping out of college and restarting.

Is College Better Than High School?

Yes, college is better than high school.

Is College Better Than High School

Whether we’re talking about your prospects in the work force, the new connections and friends you’ll make, and the experiences you’ll have, college is objectively better than high school.

Yes, college can cost money, and it takes up some time, but unless you know 100% what you want to do after high school and you want to spend all of your free time working on that, learning the skills, improving yourself, and self-studying to learn everything you need to know (and to be clear: these types of situations are incredible rare.)

If you have to ask whether college is worth it or not, then you probably don’t fall into the group of people who can skip college and get right to work, because those people already know their path 100% and what they want to do, and they know they don’t need college for it.

For the other 99% of people, college is a really good idea and that’s why if it’s a choice between college vs high school, you’re better off with college.

College Compared to High School: Think of it This Way…

College Compared to High School
Comparing notes about high school vs college.

Image you have two buttons in front of you. One button says “high school” and one button says “college”.

If you press the high school button, you graduate from high school and carry on with your life without any additional post-secondary education.

If you press the college button, you graduate from college and carry on with your life as a college grad and all of the benefits that affords you.

Which button would you press?

You would be crazy to not press the college button…

But in reality, there’s a greater price for pushing the college button. You have to spend 2-4 years of your life doing extra school, you need to pay for it or take out student loans or get grants, and there could be an opportunity cost compared to working full time.

Even with these obstacles, college is still worth it for the vast majority of people. Those obstacles can be overcome, and the first 2-4 years of your life outside of high school aren’t going to have the biggest impact on your career, and the impact will be less than the positive impact you’d get from graduating college.

An extra couple of years at an entry level job won’t get you nearly as far ahead as a couple of years in college.

Final Thoughts on High School vs College

At the end of the day, there are very rare exceptions where people can do great for themselves by just finishing high school and not going to college. These people are the exceptions, not the rule. The rule is that college sets you up for a great career a lot better than simply graduating high school does.

If you can graduate high school and then just plow through and finish college without taking a year off, you’ll be in pretty decent shape. Sometimes, taking a year or two off can easily turn into five years, ten years, then before you know it you’re working unfulfilling jobs and it feels too late to go back.

It’s never too late to go back, but if you’re still young and reading this, give some serious consideration to college, even if it’s more work and effort at the time, and you’d rather just make money. It’s super worth it, and that’s the truth about high school vs college.