Transition from High School to College

The transition from high school to college is something that most students struggle with at some point.  Review the following information to learn what to expect at college that may be different from your high school experience.

How is college different from high school?

High SchoolCollege
Your time is structured by others. You manage your own time.
Your can count on parents and teachers to remind you of your responsibilities and guide you in setting priorities. You must balance your responsibilities and set priorities.
Each day you proceed from one class directly to another, spending approximately six hours a day - 30 a week - in class. You often have hours between classes; class times vary through the day and evening and you spend only about 15 hours each week in class.
Most of your classes are arranged for you. You arrange your schedule in consultation with your advisor.  Schedules tend to look lighter than they really are.
You are not responsible for knowing what it takes to graduate. Graduation requirements are complex and differ from year to year; you are expected to know these that apply to you.
You are usually told what to do and corrected if your behavior is out of line. You are expected to take responsibility for what you do and don't do, as well as for the consequences of your decisions.
You may study outside class as little as zero to two hours a week, and this may be mostly last-minute test preparation. To be successful you need to study at least two to three hours outside of class for each hour in class; an average of 30-45 hours per week if you are taking 15 hours.
You seldom need to read anything more than once, and sometimes listening in class is enough. You need to have your textbooks, and review class notes and text material regularly.
You are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed, and often re-taught, in class. You are assigned substantial amounts of readings and writings that may not be directly addressed in class.
You will usually be told in class what you need to learn from assigned readings. It's up to you to read and understand the assigned material; lectures and assignments proceed from the assumption that you've already done so.
Teachers remind you of your incomplete work. Professors may not remind you of incomplete work.
Teachers approach you if they believe you need assistance. Professors are usually open and helpful, but most expect you to initiate contact if you need assistance.
Teachers are often available for conversation before, during or after class. Professors expect and want you to attend their scheduled office hours.
Teachers provide you with information you missed when you were absent. Professors expect you to get notes from classmates for classes you missed.
Teachers present material to help you understand the material in the book. Professors may not follow the textbook.  Instead, to amplify the text, they may give illustrations, provide background information, or discuss research about the topic you are studying.  They may expect you to relate the classes to the textbook readings.
Teachers often write information on the board to be copied to your notes. Professors may lecture nonstop, expecting you to identify the most important points in your notes.  When professors write on the board, it may be to amplify the lecture, not to summarize it.  Good notes are a must.
Teachers often take time to remind you of assignments and due dates. Professors expect you to read, save and consult the course syllabus; the syllabus spells out exactly what is expected of you, when it is due and how you will be graded.
Teachers carefully monitor class attendance. Professors may not formally take roll, but they are still likely to know whether or not you attended.  Each professor sets his/her own specific attendance policies.
High school is a teaching environment in which you acquire facts and skills. College is a learning environment in which you take responsibility for thinking through and applying what you have learned.
Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material. Testing is usually infrequent and may be cumulative, covering large amounts of material.  You, not the professor, need to organize the material to prepare for the test.
Mastery is usually seen as the ability to reproduce what you were taught in the form in which it was presented to you, or solve the kinds of problems you were shown how to solve. Mastery is often seen as the ability to apply what you've learned to new situations or solve new kinds of problems.
Consistently good homework grades may raise your overall grade when test grades are low. Grades on tests and major papers usually provide most of the course grade, and homework is considered your opportunity for practice.
Initial test grades, especially when they are low, may not have an adverse effect on your final grade. Watch out for your tests.  These are usually "wake-up calls" to let you know what is expected - but they may also account for a substantial part of your course grade.  You may be shocked to get your grades.
"Effort counts."  Courses are usually structured to reward a "good-faith effort." "Results count." Though "good-faith effort" is important in regard to the professor's willingness to help you achieve good results, it will not substitute for results in the grading process.