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7 Ways College Classes Are Different From High School Classes
| by Pauline Flores

As many colleges across the nation begin the first few days of school, college freshmen far and wide are realizing a startling truth: college classes really are different from high school classes! They had a hunch that this would be true, but the difference between could be so significant that it’s almost like a culture shock. So how are college classes different from high school classes? Read below and dodge the culture shock!

Class Sizes

Lecture sizes range from tiny, 12-person classrooms to massive 200-person lecture halls. Smaller classes are often discussion-based, so shy students, don’t be afraid to speak up – your grade will depend on it!

Lecture halls can be overwhelming at first, but after the first few days, college freshman easily get into the swing of things. Sitting a giant class basically feels like watching the movie, except the movie is not as entertaining and it costs tens of thousands of dollars to see it!

The Professors

College professors and lecturers vary, but in general, they are much more relaxed than high school teachers. To put it in modern-day terms, they’re sometimes super chill – not necessarily in the amount of work they give to their students, but in terms of their daily expectations of them.

High school teachers often have a parental air; they tend to treat their students like kids. The student-teacher relationship is different in college. College professors, on the other hand, know that they’re students are young adults, and they treat them as such. There won’t be much yelling, scolding, or detention slips handed out in a college class room!

The Environment

Because professors are relatively more relaxed in college, students feel like they have more freedom to do what they want in class. In a large lecture hall, students are prone to dozing off, texting in class, or surfing the web when they’re supposed to be taking notes on their laptops. Professors don’t have the time or patience to monitor everyone’s behavior in this setting, so the grades of these students often slip like a flip flop on ice!

Of course, this is not always the environment you can expect in a college class. When a professor is well-liked, students are more likely to respect and look at them as more than just a lecturer. Perhaps a mentor or even a friend! In high school it would be strange for students to connect with their teachers outside of the classroom, but it’s not surprising to build long-term connections with professors.


Attendance will vary by professor. Attendance could be graded, which means, either via a sign-in sheet or clicker, the professor will doc your grade if you miss a class! There are variations of this policy, including graded attendance with three excused absences allowed. If student misses more than three days of class, their final grades could drop by more than 10% per day.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are classes that don’t keep track of attendance at all – a double-edged sword for most college students! While it is tempting to skip class to sleep in, it’s important to keep track of those grades! Students will have to catch up by getting notes from classmates and read the lecture slides online. So, as a word of caution: skip class responsibly!

Types of Classes

High school classes have English, Calculus, Spanish, Engineering, Biology, and the same old same old. College? College has African Dance, Ancient Chinese History, Stars and Galaxies, History of Jazz; the possibilities are endless! College students should explore these classes while they can and absorb as much knowledge as possible.


Typical high school classes often have a predictable, tolerable workload. This could be the same depending on the college class. But in general, college homework consists of A LOT more reading, projects, essays, groupwork, and studying for tests – sometimes, all at the same time!

High school teachers can coordinate due dates with each other to lighten the work load on students, but college is a different story. College students could have multiple tests, essays, and projects due on the same day. Obviously, this could be very stressful. A solid routine and schedule will be necessary to get those A’s that college students strive for!


High school classmates could have known each other since elementary school days. It’s easy for them to find friends to talk to and sit with in class. College is completely different because the students could have come from all over the country.

On day one of class, it’s usually a bunch of strangers sitting together in room. It wouldn’t be surprising if these classmates remained strangers at the end of the semester. Don’t worry though, there’s always a handful of classmates that end up becoming long-time friends.


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