By Meghen Jones
Are you concerned about transitioning from high school to college? Do you feel overwhelmed by the mere thought of the entire ordeal, simply because you have no idea what to expect? Don’t sweat it – these feelings are completely normal and happen to every newly minted college freshman at some point. Not to mention, when you’re already intimidated by college life, your fears have a way of weighing you down before you can see the brighter side of things.
Well-meaning friends and family will tell you not to let your college fears consume you before you give the experience a chance. And, they’re right, but how are you supposed to follow their advice exactly? While we can’t speed up time, your friends at uCribs can help you understand the difference between high school and college, so that your transition between the two can be as smooth as possible. So, without further ado, here are 6 distinct differences between high school and college, so you can rest assured, knowing what to expect along the way.
Independence is the name of the game.
Most college freshmen associate the university experience with an immense amount of independence – and, well, they’re pretty much spot on with their assumptions. But, moving out of your parents’ house and into your first off-campus apartment or on-campus dorm room is only the tip of the iceberg. Aside from having your own place for the first time in your life, you’ll also be able to enjoy freedom from your usual nightly curfew and house rules set by your folks. In terms of school activities, you’ll be able to decide which classes you want to take, which clubs you’d like to sign up for, and which food vendors you want to hit up in the dining hall – that’s right, no more predetermined lunch menus or packed lunches here! Although some of these decisions may seem like small potatoes, they’re inherent of the college experience and part of gaining your footing in the real world.
A wide variety of classes are now at your fingertips.
Throughout high school, you were pretty limited in your curriculum. Every year, you had to take certain courses to meet academic requirements set by the school board, with few electives to choose from. Luckily for you, these restrictions are almost nonexistent on a college level, so you can truly explore your educational interests as you see fit. Instead of being limited to a handful of options, your university will offer a wide variety of classes to choose from, in the arenas of science, business, politics, and art… you name it! Don’t see your dream class among the offerings? You can also sign up for an independent study, which allows students to focus on a particular interest under the guidance of an advisor. Of course, there will be core requirements that are standard for every major, but it’s not much in comparison to the options available to you.
No set schedules spell out more freedom.
College will not only open doors to an array of previously unheard of courses, but it will also give you full freedom to schedule your classes however you’d like. This is a far cry from your high school days, when you had the same daily schedule for four years straight. Back then, you could expect school to start and finish at the same time each day, with a short break in between for lunch. In a way, this made life simple for you, but on the other end of the spectrum, you also had to mold your other interests around your commitment to your education. While you’re in college, all of this changes – some of your classes will be held once a week, while others meet multiple times a week with other requirements in tow, like labs, work experience, and so forth. Needless to say, the school schedule that you’re accustomed to one semester may be totally different the next, so you can never get too comfortable—and maybe that’s a good thing, as someone who enjoys shaking things up!
Critical thinking is favored over memorization.
Attending college isn’t just about reading over coursework, then testing your knowledge on the subject. While high school involved a lot of memorization, college requires a lot more effort to demonstrate your understanding of the course material. For example, nursing majors must complete clinicals, on top of other medical-related courses to demonstrate their knowledge of anatomy and basic medical processes. Instead of simply memorizing important facts concerning these landmark trials, a pre-law student may have to present an in-depth case study to their peers, analyzing how a significant case in American history has shaped the judicial system today. See what we mean? Your professors are hands-on and want your educational experience to benefit your career path of choice, so they’ll never let you take the easy way out with tests that only skim the surface of your course material. While you may be thrown off guard know, these critical thinking skills are the ticket to your future successes.
Responsibility is a must, especially in attending class.
In high school, class absences were tracked through the school board’s truancy system as either an excused or non-excused absence. Rack up a few too many unexcused absences, and your parents would be questioned as to why you’re missing so much school without a valid reason. However, in college, your attendance is your own responsibility—not the burden of the state, or even your parents. Trust us when we tell you that colleges don’t contact your parents if you’re having issues showing up to class. In fact, they won’t even contact you. While college professors keep tabs on attendance with most factoring it into your final participation grade, they will not shoot you an email or text if you choose to skip class to inquire your whereabouts. They view this as your own decision as a responsible adult– so, technically, you call the shots on whether or not you want to trudge to that 8 AM class on Friday. Our word of advice? Stay on top of attendance by not scheduling any classes you know you’ll have trouble attending.
New people, places, and things—there is so much to explore!
Sure, we aren’t social scientists or psychologists, but in the opinion of these humble writers, it always seems like the most reserved high school student becomes the most social of butterflies in college. With the proliferation of new sights, surroundings, and opportunities, it isn’t unusual for wallflowers to flourish in their college years. While your high school had a few extracurricular activities— like the yearbook staff or intramural sports— their offerings do not compare to that of a college campus. During your college years, you’ll have more clubs and organizations to join, as well as parties, mixers, events, and sports competitions to attend, where it’s quite easy to meet new people. Take our word for it: it’s almost impossible not to make at least a new, lifelong friend or two during college – and for that, you should be super pumped!
Heading off to college can be a scary experience when you’re so accustomed to your normal routine that’s indicative of high school. But, like any new chapter, there comes exciting promise and opportunity with attending college. If you’re nervous, just remember that every incoming freshman has been in your shoes and lived to tell the tale. Although it’s natural to be fearful of the unknown, many of your most profound memories will be created during your college experience over the next four years. To prepare accordingly, take note of our tips, and you’ll be able to start your journey with less stress and anxiety – and maybe even a bit of excitement!