With more challenging classes, increased choices in how to spend your time and likely the responsibility of living on your own, college is a completely different world from high school. Nonetheless, both high school and college are institutions of learning and share some similarities. Comparing and contrasting these two chapters of your education can prepare you for the challenges you'll face in college and make you aware of how your high school experience has already paved the way.
While a public high school education is usually free, attending college is a serious financial commitment. According to the US Department of Education, annual average cost for a college education nearly tripled in a recent 20-year period. The nonprofit organization American Student Assistance also reports that of the 20 million Americans who attend college annually, 60 percent take out loans to pay for their education. This high degree of financial responsibility should motivate students to carefully weigh their options as they decide what type of college education is right for them.
Time Management Matters More
In high school, your day is typically planned for you, including where and when your classes meet and what time you eat lunch. College gives you significantly more freedom in building your schedule and choosing how to spend your time. While high school usually required you to stay in one building for several hours every day, in college you might have only one or two classes on some days, or on others, none at all. Because you'll have less access to your instructors, it's your responsibility to plan your day wisely, leaving enough time to study, plan ahead for major assignments and complete homework.
Activities: Still Crucial to Student Life
While college is a very different world from high school, the role of the school community in shaping your social life remains just as significant, if not more so. In the absence of family and friends back home, the people you meet and connect with in college play a vital role in your life. Like in high school, you will make new friends in classes and be able to join clubs, sports and organizations that fit your interests. Greek life organizations like fraternities and sororities also allow you to bond with a specific group of people and perform social work on campus.
Class Checklists: Graduation Requirements
In high school, all students must complete a specific plan of study in order to graduate. Often, this includes a specific number of English, math, science and history classes, as well as physical education and art electives. While college allows you to specialize in a particular major, you'll still have to complete a prescribed list of general education classes to receive your diploma, much like you did in high school. These requirements typically include the same core classes required in high school, as well as humanities-oriented fields like philosophy, religion, public speaking and social sciences.
- National Center for Education Statistics: Fast Facts
- American Student Assistance: Student Loan Debt Statistics
- University of Wisconsin-Platteville Counseling Services: Major Differences Between High School and College
- Stanford University: The High School and College Boundary
- North Carolina Public Schools: High School Graduation Requirements
- George Mason University: General Education and College Requirements
- Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images