10 Ways College Classes Differ from High School

Have you ever wondered what the difference between a high school class and the college class is? Find out how your lecturers play a different role in your education to your high school teachers, how much time you will spend in class and studying and what is expected of you to succeed.

TCM Staff

21st April 2020

A high school is a school providing the final grades of education in the K-12 process, so either 8th or 9th grade to 12th grade. It is either a part of a public school or a private school. The students are aged between around 14 and 18 years of age.

College is a 2 to 4 years undergraduate institution preparing graduates of high school for their bachelor’s degree. A two-year college may be called community college or junior college. They generally offer associate degrees and certificates for vocational training.

High School vs College

The primary differences between a high school and a college are discussed below

No. of students

In high school, classes usually do not have more than 30-35 students depending on the size of the classroom.

Whereas in college, classes may have anywhere from 5 to more than 100 students. 


In high school, you have a certain standardized curriculum. As the years go on, you are allowed to branch out and begin choosing your own classes. Most people end up choosing the majority of their classes from one area of human knowledge. 

Whereas in college, you major in one field of study. If you chose a lot of STEM courses in high school, then you will probably major in a field within that domain. Like high school, there is usually a certain standardized curriculum.

Classes hours

The year in high school is 36 weeks long. You are trapped in a building for several hours as you sit through class after class. Usually no more than 35 students. Most of the studying and work is done in the class itself.

Whereas, the college classes are divided into two 15 week semesters. You might have  free hours in between classes. There might be days in which you only have one class. There might even be days in which you have no classes and there might be days in which you have so many classes that you are out and about from eight in the morning to nine at night. The classes may have 100+ students. Most studies in the college are done outside the class.

Teachers and Professors

In high school, teachers check if you completed your homework. They have been trained in teaching methods. They provide you with information if you miss class and monitor class attendance.

 Whereas in college, professors do not always check your homework but expect you to know the material. They train as experts in their areas of study. They expect you to get information from missed classes from a classmate. They do not always formally take roll calls.


Textbooks are usually free or provide at little expense in the high school. 

Whereas, in the college, students must buy textbooks, which can be expensive (Average cost is $200 to $400 per semester)


In high school, teachers often write information on the board or overhead projector to be copied for notes. 

Whereas in college, professors may lecture non stop and write on the board only to support the lecture, not to summarize it. Good note-taking skills are essential.

Choice of study

In high school, you have some choices, but not as many as a college or university in terms of “studying things you want to learn.” The first two years mostly spent on providing you with a “basic high school education” such as, Learning Shakespeare is good, etc. 

Whereas in college you have more choices in regards to learning what you want to learn. The first two years mostly spent on providing you with the basics of a college education.


In high school, tests often cover a small amount of material and frequently have review sessions. High school often rearrange test dates to avoid conflict. 

Whereas in college, tests are often cumulative or cover large amounts of material and rarely review and expect students to actively participate. Tests are scheduled without regard to other courses in college


In high school, grades are given for most assigned work and extra credit is often available. You may graduate if you have passed all required courses with a ‘D’ or higher. 

Whereas in college, grades are not always given for assigned work and extra credits are not frequently available. You may graduate if your grades meet the department standard i.e. usually a 2.0

Joining A Club

In high school you are limited to a few clubs and organizations you can join.  You may make a lifelong best friend or two. 

Whereas in college, you have an abundance of a variety of clubs and organizations you can join. You may find at least one or two professors who are an inspiration for the rest of your life.


In short, there is really no huge difference between high school and college. Just the same old human existence, wrapped up in another package. 

In high school, your five basic necessities were covered for you by your parents. In college some of them will be covered. Once you leave, none of them will be covered. It’s now up to you to pay for them. But don’t forget that college is not a ticket to the “good life.” You need to remain adaptable. So, understand it, learn it, and act on it. Watch out for yourself, but work to make the world a better place. 

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