Going to college is your first foray into realizing your independence and freedom. As you prepare to be on your own, there are a variety of high school and college differences to consider. Think of college as a stepping stone to self-discovery. Your main priority is academic achievement, but you’ll also be responsible for taking care of yourself. The choices that you make will frame your success. If you enter college, armed with information about how to navigate your experience then managing the transition won’t seem as daunting.

1. Attend Your Classes

Your parents are contacted if you miss classes in high school, that is not the case in college. Some college professors will track attendance, but they aren’t likely to call you if you don’t show up. If you aren’t a morning person, avoid taking an early morning class. Attending class is vital to your success. If you miss one class, be diligent and send a quick email to your professor but try to limit your absences.

2. Meet With Your Professor

In college, it’s easy to sit in the back of the class and avoid eye contact all semester. Your professors are not likely to call on you or keep track of your performance. It’s your responsibility to be heard and establish a relationship with them. College professors are required to keep office hours that are dedicated to student meetings. Take the time to meet with your professors during their office hours. Whether you're acing all your classes or need the extra assistance, your professor is there to help.

3. Coursework Will Vary

Although the academic fervor is a similarity between high school and college students, the coursework is often different. High school classes build in small assignments throughout the semester to help monitor student learning and accountability. In college, you’re likely to take classes that have two big assignments or tests that will determine your final grade. Success in college requires discipline and determination. Be prepared to keep up on the assigned reading and immerse yourself in the content.

4. Self-Motivation Is Key

One of the biggest changes that you’ll face in college is that you’re entirely responsible for yourself. You have to be motivated to get things done, on your own. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or notice that you’re falling behind, seek help from the counseling center or an academic advisor, as soon as possible.

5. Manage Your Time

One high school and college comparison is the differing approach to time management. High school students typically start their classes in the morning with a consistent bell schedule. In college, students spend, on average, 12 to 15 hours in class per week. You get to decide how to use the rest of your time. Recommended study time in college is three hours for every hour that you’re in class per week. College is essentially your full-time job. Use a calendar to establish a schedule that includes class, work, study time and recreation. If you dedicate yourself to a set routine, you’ll stay on top of all that needs to be done.

6. Set a Curfew For Yourself

In college, you’ll get to decide when the day ends. There will be social distractions that will tempt you to stay out late. It’s important to communicate with your roommate, so that they aren't concerned for your safety all night. You’ll also want to ensure that you have your key or ID, in case the front door of the dorm is locked at night.

7. Talk to Someone New

Socializing and having fun is another similarity between high school and college. In high school, you probably had a one friend group that you spent time with during the lunch hour or after school. In college, you’ll have to put yourself in different circles to create new social connections. Join student organizations, attend floor events and get involved on campus to meet new people. College is the time to push outside of your comfort zone and build relationships with new people.

8. Make Healthy Choices

If you're living on campus, you will most likely be dining in the cafeteria for most meals. The buffet-style set up makes it tempting to grab a little bit of everything, but how you decide to nourish your body is ultimately up to you. Make healthy choices and opt for the side salad over the french fries. By making healthier choices, you’re less likely to experience the freshman 15.

9. Dedicate Time for Chores

In college, you will be responsible for cleaning your room and doing your own laundry. Talk to your roommate about how you can work together to keep the room clean. Schedule weekly chores that include vacuuming, emptying the garbage and cleaning the bathroom, if you have one. Dedicate a day each week to do your laundry, so that you won’t have to wear dirty clothes to class.

10. Be Sure to Sleep

In college, you determine your own bedtime. It may be tempting to stay up late with friends or go out and be social, but your first responsibility is to your classes. Similarly, there won't be anyone to wake you up, if you sleep through your alarm. If you’re having trouble getting up in the morning, take that as a signal that you may need to go to sleep earlier.

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About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.