College vs. High School: Differences and Similarities

students throwing their graduate caps up on a lawn

Many students can’t wait for high school to end and college to start which is associated with freedom, friends, living without parents and a chance to take control over your life. Most people admit that in college they’ve entered adult life.

We won’t talk about adulthood here – as it’s not the time for tedious matters – we are going to compare the differences and similarities of life in high school and college instead. What should you expect from each? What are the main challenges of each? Is college academically hard? Let’s go straight to business.

Comparing Two Milestones of Student Life

So, you want to move out of your parents’ house as quickly as possible to have fun and attend parties, as you’ve heard these are the only things college students do. However, this is not actually true.

Obviously, there are a lot of differences between studying in high school and in college. To help you figure out what they are, we’ve prepared the lists that are divided into categories determined by different spheres and aspects of both academic levels.

Studying Process

While high school studying process might seem difficult, many students find studying in college more challenging due to lack of self-motivation.

High School:

  • You attend all the scheduled classes
  • You have a lot of classes a day
  • You are obligated to be in school and do your homework


  • You schedule your classes the way you want
  • You choose classes which you long to learn
  • Attending classes and completing assignments are your responsibility
  • You spend most of your time on homework
  • Commonly your course grade is defined by one single exam or assignment

You might be also interested to know more about the differences between high school and college finals.

Lifestyle and Social Sphere

It’s hard to be objective when it comes to comparing college vs. high school social life because getting into a college can be too overwhelming to keep a clear mind. Parties, adulthood, numerous new friends, tight budget, anxiety, new everyday routine – all of these things are like an avalanche for a freshman.

High school:

  • You need to get up early in the morning to be able to get to school right on time for your first class
  • You live with your parents
  • You know everyone in your class
  • You have a schedule assembled by your teachers and parents
  • Studying at home for 2-4 hours a week might be enough – the rest of your spare time you spend as you wish
  • You try to look “cool” and often feel embarrassed


  • You get to know a lot of new people from different parts of the country (or the world)
  • You can stay up all night – anyway, getting up the next day will be only your problem
  • You can schedule your weeks as you want to
  • You spend less time in class, but you have to study more in the dorm or in the library
  • You can visit events and parties without someone’s permission
  • Everyone is too busy to pay attention to your outfits
  • Establishing a friendship with your roommate is highly recommended

Teachers and Professors

It’s not a secret that most of the time in college you spend on trying to force yourself to complete your assignment. You will also need to learn how to contact your professor and how to find his or her office hours in a gigantic schedule.

High school:

  • Teachers closely follow the books
  • Teachers help to be right on time with all of your assignments
  • Teachers try to motivate and engage you
  • Teachers provide you with assigned material


  • Professors follow the books they wrote and academic works or personal experience
  • No one will hunt you down for attendance, but you will have problems if you skip the classes
  • You are the only one who can motivate yourself – it’s not your professor’s business
  • Professors treat you like a grown-up and expect responsible and deliberate behavior from you


Food is almost the last thing a student thinks about when imagining studying in college. But it’s a very significant issue which almost in all cases requires basic cooking skills.

High school:

  • Your parents provide you with healthy dishes
  • You can eat in a school cafeteria during a school year
  • You rarely or never cook for yourself


Just find something more nutritious than a pack of chips. These Tricks for Cooking Healthy College Meals on a Budget can help you.

So, we’ve already defined some differences between these two life stages. Let’s make an overall comparison of student life in high school and college.

College vs. High School

Life in college has so many opportunities, which were banned for students during high school years. But it is also accompanied by many difficulties students face for the first time in their lives.

High School

  • You don’t know what time-management is
  • You need to learn how to take care of a plant in your room
  • Teachers try to encourage you to learn
  • You are banned from many events
  • You wish you had more spare time
  • You are anxious about specialization choice
  • Sometimes you lie you’re sick
  • Everyone attend high-school because they are obligated to
  • You think that college level is the end of learning
  • You believe that tests are the worst part of studying
  • You think that college students spend the whole time at the parties
  • You can’t wait to get into a college
  • You wish you were older


  • You need to work on your time management skills
  • You need to learn how to plan your budget
  • You need to learn how to take care of yourself
  • Self-motivation is your main task
  • Parties are not as fun as one says
  • Studying takes a lot of spare time
  • You choose college classes which you are interested in
  • You have no time to be sick
  • Those who attend college do that because they want to and chose to
  • You know that you have a lot more things to learn after college graduation
  • You need to perform actually in-depth researches
  • You think that high-school students are kids
  • You can find a part-time job
  • You need to learn how long human can live without sleep
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