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The Biggest Differences between High School and College

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Lafayette chapter.

I remember waking up every day at 6 AM in high school, followed by a seven-hour school day, work, extra-curriculars, stress and, most importantly, being beyond excited for college when I would have much more flexibility throughout my day and in my schedule. In short, I had heard that college was totally different from high school, and I was pumped. Here is my compiled list of the most important differences between high school and college.


  1. College requires more proactivity.


Yep, it’s true — college is harder than high school, but it gives you a chance to really be proactive with your education every day. Plus, even though college requires more proactivity, you have more time during your day to actually implement it! For example, if you are confused about one course’s material, you have to tell yourself to make the time to meet with your professor. Also, since you’re living on your own, you may need to be more proactive when buying necessities such as toiletries and food, as well as when saving money. I’ve personally loved how college has made me into a more proactive and independent person — it’s an important skill to have. 


2. You may have to make more effort to spend time with friends.


In high school, it was always easy to see my friends because of shared classes, hallway walks, or the fact that I lived five minutes away from them. Though this may be true in college, everyone is on their own busy schedule, so it takes a little more effort to find times to meet up whether at the library, dinner, or an event on campus. This may seem a little daunting, but don’t worry! I’ve found that I have really close relationships with my friends just because it takes more effort to actually find time to spend with them. Whether it’s a coffee date, study sesh, shopping trip, or a shared meal together, it’s definitely time well-spent. 


3. Your time is completely your own!

Every day of high school went something like this: waking up at 6 AM, followed by seven hours of school, extra-curricular activities, work, dinner, homework, and bed. Now, a typical day of college looks like… well, every day is different. In fact, my classes are probably the only routine part of my daily schedule. The rest of my day is devoted to whatever I want or am involved in — studying, dog-sitting, working out, meetings, on-campus talks, napping, binging Friends and The Office (hehe), etc. While such flexibility in time requires more discipline, I find that I can prioritize my schoolwork while also emphasizing my physical and mental health and wellness. I also have time to develop my talents or interests which is something I love. 


4. Independence! Freedom!

In college, you’re obviously going to have more opportunities to be independent because you are away from home for the first time. You can sleep when you want, eat when you want, etc. While this is a lovely luxury, make sure you prioritize and also call your family to let them know you’re surviving! I talk to my family several times a week over the phone, but still, feel like I am independent and on my own. It all depends on balance, and what works best for you. 


5. Academic differences

To be completely honest, you guessed it, college is more work than high school. On the bright side, you do have more time to complete it because of the greater amount of free time you have in a day. Plus, it’s easier to get ahead in your classes because your professor closely follows the syllabus (the ESSENTIAL document for success!) which you receive on the first day. Your professor isn’t likely to remind you of deadlines, so I highly recommend getting a planner. Mine’s been a lifesaver. It will keep you organized and on top of your schoolwork. I find that transferring all of the important information from the syllabus to my planner allows me to manage my increased amount of work. I know about it ahead of time, so I can start it in advance and avoid the stress that comes with procrastination!


Though there are tons of differences between high school and college, these are the main ones I have noticed during my first semester here at Lafayette. Obviously, each person perceives the relationship between their high school and college experiences differently, but I think that these differences are pretty consistent. Now, please excuse me as I go back to my dorm to complete my allocated Netflix-watching session for the day because I have so much more time for everything else later!

Shiloh Harrill

Lafayette '23

enthusiast for all things literature, sunrise, and coffee-related
Huge bagels and Soundcloud enthusiast.