When I started my college career at Marymount University, I was surprised to find just how different it was from high school. Sure, our teachers and counselors did all they could to prepare us for the change in academics and made sure we had all of the necessary knowledge. But once you begin you actually realize just how different college is when compared to high school.
There are three key differences between high school and college life that have remained true even after my two complete years:
Mode of learning: collaborative vs. individualized
The first difference is that in college the emphasis is much more on collaborative learning and much less on individualized learning. What this means is in high school, in most instances, the work you complete each day has a direct impact on your own personal grades, but not much beyond that.
Students focus on themselves and on their own personal grades because having good grades is what you need in order to be accepted into college. Although there might be some group work along the way, for most students the focus is about receiving that “A” at the end of the term, rather than valuing the experience of working with your peers.
For this reason, in high school, working on group projects was almost painful for me. Putting the fate of my grade for a project in the hands of a group of teenagers and just praying with fingers crossed that they would do their share was nerve-wracking.
In college, I noticed right away that collaborative group work is assigned in virtually every class, major, and concentration at the university. However, these assigned group projects are designed in a way to teach us not only the content of the subject at hand but also how to communicate effectively with our peers and with other professors and educators.
This makes the focus less on the final letter grade on the grading sheet and more about the connections you make with people along the way, and the experience you get working with other people towards a common goal.
As a result, the group work in college has been far less painful for me than it was in high school. Now, I am excited about the content I am learning, I am working with motivated peers, who are (for the most part) passionate about the actual learning process rather than just being fixated on the letter grade. This could be something unique to Marymount, but I believe that no matter the college, group work is generally focused so much more on the collaborative experience and really getting the most out of the content.
I credit the professors for tailoring projects to the strengths of the members in the group.
In college, clearly the value of the education is what will stick with you as you move on into your career and the “real world.” When you are passionate about the things you are learning and about the collaborative experience, and you have professors and colleagues that are passionate as well, those skills are strengthened and will be rewarded.
Assignment types: long-term and self-driven vs. short-term and directed
The second major difference between high school and college is the types of class assignments. In high school, since you went to the same classes every single day, the majority of the assignments were small tasks such as worksheets and “reading checks” and things of that nature.
The majority of my assignments in college have been essays, short- and long-term projects, and research assignments. At first, this sounded great! I felt I had so much more free time because when I looked at my agenda, I had such a long time before any of my assignments were due.
However, I quickly learned that having the majority of projects as assignments doesn’t necessarily mean that there is less work to be done. Even though I was not required to do things every night and turn them in the next day, I still had to be able to dedicate time every day to some of these long-term assignments. This was definitely a difficult adjustment coming into college.
Time management soon became my best friend. I thought that I had a handle on managing my time in high school, but in college it brings a whole new meaning to the term. Now, with more self-driven research projects I am completely in control of my time and how I choose to allocate it to the work that needs to be done. It requires me to be smart with my time and figure out when I should spend time on the different parts of the projects.
A difference between high school and college is that professors do not check in on us in the way that high school teachers may be able to do since they saw us every day in the same classroom. In college, students are completely responsible for their work and how (and when) they choose to get it done before the deadlines. In order to succeed, being focused and disciplined with your time is crucial.
Daily schedule: flexible vs. structured
Speaking of time… everyone told me, “You’ll have so much free time in college.” They were exactly right, but not in the way I was expecting. One of the most evident differences between college and high school is that now you aren’t expected to sit in the same building for eight hours each day, attending the same set of classes.
In college, every single day is different, with a different schedule, different responsibilities, and a different amount of free time. While having more free time does have its benefits—a quick walk to Starbucks, lunch in the city, or just time to nap—it brings a lot more responsibility as well.
Now, with each day being different, I can’t always guarantee that I will have free time at, say, 4:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, as I could in high school. Each day I have to organize the schedule of the day based on what needs to be done and what responsibilities I have for that particular day.
It takes discipline and organization to be able to know your schedule for each day and plan your tasks accordingly. For me, this is exciting, and it’s what keeps college fresh and ever-changing.
Each day is completely unique, and you never know what tomorrow will bring. With organization and time management, you can see the benefits of having a more flexible schedule and enjoy the freedom that college brings. It truly feels like your own personal college experience, which it should be!
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Everyone knows that the worlds of high school and college couldn’t be further apart. But, what parallels can be drawn between the two?
From childhood to adulthood, high school allows you to gain a sense of what it will be like to be an adult.
On the other hand, college allows you to fully take ownership of your time, responsibilities and who you want to become.
As long as you’re able to stay on track of the goal at hand, i.e. getting marvelous grades, keeping a smart schedule and studying like crazy, you’ll be just fine. In college, balance is the key. Work a lot, have a little fun.
If it sounds pretty great, that’s because it absolutely is.
Here are a few comparisons that you’ll experience during your transition into the college lifestyle:
- High School: In high school, you know everyone in your class.
College: In college, you’re lucky to know one person in your class.
High School High school books are provided are little to no cost.
College: College textbooks cost a small fortune.
High School: You have to live with your parents in high school.
College: You get to live with your friends in college.
High School: You wake up early in the morning for class in high school.
College: You wake up for your first class (or whenever you want).
High School: In high school, you were forced to learn all subjects.
College: In college, you get to learn whatever you want to.
High School: In high school, your time and schedule are dictated by others.
College: In college, you take back ownership of time management.
High School: In high school, teachers read from the textbooks they use.
College: In college, professors refer to the textbooks they wrote.
High School: In high school, you studied comfortably at home before a test.
College: In college, the library becomes your home away from home.
High School: In high school, you wrote notes to friends.
College: In college, you take notes for yourself.
High School: In high school, you’re able finish all your homework in one night.
College: In college, that’s a near-to-impossible feat.
High School: In high school, you have a full day of classes.
College: In college, you plan your schedule to your liking.
High School: In high school, you’re stuck with a set social hierarchy.
College: In college, you get to choose who you spend time around.
High School: In high school, assigned reading means a night off from homework.
College: In college, you actually need to do the reading – and it takes all night.
High School: In high school, everyone is required to be there.
College: In college, everyone wants to be there.
High School In high school, you worried about what “looked” cool.
College: In college, you’re too busy to care about what other people think.
High School: In high school, you’re stuck in a social “role” that others cast you in.
College: In college, you can be whoever you want to be.
High School: In high school, you have adults telling you what’s expected of you.
College: In college, it’s just expected.
High School: In high school, teachers gear classes towards average learners.
College: In college, average is the bare (emphasis on bare) minimum.
High School: High school attendance is mandatory.
College: College attendance is (strongly) suggested.
High School: In high school, you had a curfew you had to follow.
College: In college, you use your own judgment for what you have time to do.
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