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Transitioning from High School to College

Here are a variety of ways in which high school and college differ. Understanding some of the important differences and being prepared for them will help you achieve a smoother transition.

Some considerations as you transition from high school to CCRI:

  • Students have new freedoms and responsibilities and must make decisions on their own.
  • Students must manage their own time and arrange their own schedules.
  • Students are responsible for seeking out assistance and campus resources.
  • Students must develop strategies and learn how to advocate for themselves.
  • Even though students are expected to be more independent than in high school, supports and services are available but students need to seek them out.
  • Accommodations provided in high school may not necessarily be appropriate at the postsecondary level.
  • Many students who did not do well in high school "blossom" in college. Much of how college will differ depends on you.
  • Communication is one key element to success in college

Class Time

  • HIGH SCHOOL: You spend on average 6 hours each day/30 hours a week in class, proceeding from one class to the next. The school year is 36 weeks long; with a short break in the spring and a long one over the summer.
  • COLLEGE: You spend 12 to 16 hours each week in class, usually with breaks in between. Times are not limited to daylight hours, many classes are offered in the evening. In most cases, the academic year is divided into two 15-week semesters, plus a week after each semester for exams. There is generally a winter break and a spring break, which is followed by exams. The spring semester can conclude in early May.

Class Size

  • HIGH SCHOOL: Classes generally have no more than 35 students and are taught by teachers.
  • COLLEGE: Depending on the size of college you select, classes may range in size from twenty to hundreds of students. Classes are taught by professors, who will be referred to as Doctor if they have acquired a Doctorate in their chosen field. At large universities, classes may be taught by graduate assistants, not professors.

Teaching Style

  • HIGH SCHOOL: Teachers present material to help you understand the material in the textbook, often writing information on the chalkboard to be copied in your notes.
  • COLLEGE: Professors may lecture nonstop, give you illustrations, provide background information, or discuss research about the topic you are studying. You will be expected to be up to date on all assigned readings and be able summarize it, so good notes are critical.

Time Management

  • HIGH SCHOOL: Your time is usually structured by others: administrators, teachers, coaches and of course, parents. Teachers carefully monitor class attendance.
  • COLLEGE: You manage your own time. It’s up to you to get to class, do your lab work and study. Professors may not formally take roll, but they are still likely to know whether or not you attended, especially at smaller colleges where they will get to know you.


  • HIGH SCHOOL: You will usually be told what you need to learn from assigned readings and teachers will remind you of assignments and due dates. They will check your completed homework.
  • COLLEGE: Professors expect you to utilize the course syllabus (outline); which spells out exactly what is expected of you, when it is due and how you will be graded. It's up to you to read and understand the assigned material; lectures and assignments are based on the assumption that you've already done so. Professors may not always check completed homework, but they will assume you can perform the same tasks on tests.


  • HIGH SCHOOL: Teachers will approach you if they believe you need assistance.
  • COLLEGE: Professors are usually open and helpful, but expect and want you to attend their scheduled office hours if you need assistance. Students will also have resources like an Academic Skills Center or Writing Center at their disposal should they need it.


  • HIGH SCHOOL: You are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed in class. You may study outside of class as little as 2 hours a week, and this may be mostly test preparation.
  • COLLEGE: You are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing which may not be discussed in class. You need to study at least 2 to 3 hours outside of class for each hour in class to keep up with the coursework.


  • HIGH SCHOOL: Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material. Teachers frequently conduct review sessions, pointing out the most important concepts. If you miss the test, makeup tests are often available.
  • COLLEGE: Testing is infrequent (a particular course may have only 2 or 3 tests in a semester) and may cover large amounts of material. You are expected to organize the material to prepare for the test. Professors rarely offer review sessions, and when they do, expect you to come prepared with questions. Makeup tests are rarely an option; on exam day you need to be prepared and on time.


  • HIGH SCHOOL: Good grades are based on the ability to comprehend what you were taught in the form in which it was presented to you, or to solve the types of problems you were taught how to solve. Courses are usually structured to reward a "good-faith” effort so consistently good homework grades may help raise your overall grade if test grades are low. In addition, extra credit projects are often available to help raise your grade.
  • COLLEGE: Good grades are based on your ability to apply what you've learned to new situations or to solve new kinds of problems. You must do well consistently: grades on tests and papers usually provide most of the course grade. Unlike high school, first tests may account for a substantial part of your course grade and extra credit projects are rarely used to raise a grade.

Graduation Requirements

  • HIGH SCHOOL: You may graduate as long as you have passed all required courses with a grade of D or higher.
  • COLLEGE: You may graduate only if your average in classes meets the departmental standard – usually a 2.0 or C, be sure to check your departmental standard for graduation.


  • HIGH SCHOOL: Parents and teachers will remind you what your responsibilities are and guide you in setting priorities. You will no doubt be corrected if your behavior is out of line.
  • COLLEGE: You're now responsible for what you do and don't do, as well as for the consequences of your decisions. In addition to studying, you will be expected to manage a budget, do your own laundry and learn how to live in a whole new environment without a lot of structure. Along the way, you will be faced with a large number of moral and ethical decisions you have not had to face previously. You must balance your responsibilities and set priorities.

Have questions or want to learn more? Start with a virtual session with a CCRI Academic Advisor / Counselor. Sign up at

Adapted from King's College