College life is usually a pleasurable experience for many college students.

But before transitioning to college, a high school graduate may get scared by the widespread notion that college life is much more difficult than high school life. Whether that notion is true to life or not, you may get swayed by the delusion that college and high school are the same in all aspects.

While this post exhaustively discusses the contrast between high school and college, reading the post will enable a college-bound student to envision college life and then compare it with their high school experience.

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What Is a High School?

A high school is an academic institution where students are enrolled for the phase of academic life that prepares them for college or work. Kids in the U.S. are ready for high school starting from age 14. However in certain other countries, kids begin high school at an earlier age.

What Is a College?

The word “college” can have various definitions but it is more commonly regarded as a form of higher education. When perceived as an academic institution, a college may be a degree-awarding institution for higher education. In some less common contexts, a college may be regarded as a high school, vocational school or a certificate-awarding trade institution.

A college may also be an essential component of a larger academic institution such as a university. In the United States, the word “college” is widely considered an alternative term for “university”. This is why a college in the U.S. may operate either as a community college (with comparatively affordable higher education programs), a component part of a university, or as an independent institution awarding degrees in undergraduate programs.

What Are the Factors That Differentiate High School from College?

High School vs College - How Do They Compare? - YouTube

Both high school and college foster learning but they considerably differ as regards the sorts of workload, social life, freedom and communication that students experience in them.

Depending on a student’s personal likes and dislikes, the student is very likely to consider one (of high school and college) more fascinating than the other.

College and high school differ on grounds of several factors which are as follows: workload, communication, freedom, social life, resources and money.


In terms of workload, college and high school significantly differ. While the workload at college proves much greater, this workload combines long hours of reading, classroom studies and homework.

College students are issued reading lists when a new semester commences. Such reading lists could appear intimidating with many chapters (that the students are expected) to cover weekly.

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Although not to scare college-bound students, the workload at college may seem more intimidating as students are required to do assignments before the classroom lessons for the assignments.

In high school however, there is less workload compared to what students at college usually have to face. This is why in high school, the workload is spread across classwork, (less hours of) studying and homework. Unlike the assignments given to college students, the homework assigned to high school students is relatively simple.

More often than not, the homework assigned to high school students on any day is simply a continuation of the classroom lesson for that day. The high school workload sometimes incorporates reading assignments but unlike what college students face, these reading assignments are not regularly given.


Adequate communication is one of the means through which high school teachers help their students perform excellently. In high school, the teacher usually has the advantage of fostering a close relationship with each of their students. If a student underperforms consistently, it is very easy for the teacher to communicate regularly with the student, find out what is wrong and decide the best way to help the student.

High school students usually find their teachers accessible and this gives each student the courage to interact closely with their teachers. Why this is so may be that the teachers’ work schedule allows for adequate out-of-class communication with the students.

The size of a college (especially the student-to-class ratio) may influence the level of communication between college students and their instructors. Unlike high school students, college students may not have a shot at flexible amounts of communication with their professors, especially in the students’ first two years.

We can’t deny that both high school students and college students have the advantage of communicating with their teachers/instructors. But that doesn’t erase the fact that high school students have a higher likelihood of regular communication with teachers. This is simply because the average university professor has a whole lot of out-of-class activities. Even with such activities aside, the professor tends to organize multiple classes for students at upper and lower levels, thereby limiting the opportunity for out-of-class personal communication with the students.


A college student’s class time spans an average of 12 hours weekly. While this gives room for more spare time, it is very likely for those without self-discipline to misuse their leisure time.

Due to the high amount of freedom that comes with being a college student, students without self-discipline are probably at a disadvantage. They tend to get carried away and either procrastinate or forget about some of their assignments.

There’s no denying that college students have a lot of extra time. Unlike the seemingly rigid structure that applies to high school, college’s structure allows for more flexibility.

Averagely, high school students commit 30 hours of class time weekly. The students barely enjoy any considerable freedom as their daily routine revolves around class time, studying, homework, sports practice and club meetings. Most high school students can hardly change this rigid structure since their parents are usually available to ensure they keep to the routine.

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Although they have less freedom, high school students have a high likelihood of maintaining excellent grades due to their rather strict daily routine. College’s structure, on the other hand, allows for a lot of freedom but if not well used, a student might just get carried away with their leisure time.

Social Life

Students in college can exercise great control over their social life; they can determine when –or when not –to have their own circle of friends. The social life in college isn’t restricted to school-organized clubs, groups, sororities, sports clubs, etc. College students will, in fact, come across individuals and student groups with diverse views, philosophies and interests.

Depending on how they deem fit, a college student can decide whether it’s in their first, second or final year that they will create a circle or join a student group that aligns with their interest. The bottom line is that the average college student can freely decide their social life rather than get pressured to tag along with people with dissimilar interests.

The social life in high school is considerably different because the average student has limited power over how they want to live their social life. High schools are known for strong peer pressure by which the average student is more or less tempted to fit into the ideas, fashion sense, viewpoints and social activities of the popular majority.

Due to limitation in the choice of social life, many high school students are very likely to be pressured into connecting with colleagues with whom their views do not completely match. This is perhaps the reason why many high school friendships, if compared with college friendships, do not seem to last long.

While many students may want to maintain their friendships with college fellows after graduation, it is unlikely for most high school friendships to remain strong after graduation.


Colleges typically offer more resources than what can be found in high schools. Especially those in larger public universities, college students enjoy access to a generous amount of resources such as well-furnished libraries, counseling centers, health clinics, computer labs, and various sports facilities.

Generally, a college is more favorable than a high school in terms of resources. But where the case may prove otherwise is for students transitioning to a community college (or public institution) from a private high school. At the typical community college, the students’ experience of resources may prove far less favorable compared to what was experienced while in the private high school.

The number of resources available in most (usually public) high schools is relatively inadequate. However, this number varies from school to school as private high schools tend to offer more resources than what their public counterparts hold.

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Generally, high schools do have libraries with books for students to access. But each student is restricted to just one textbook in every attempt to check out textbooks in the library.

Compared to college, high school offers fewer resources in terms of extra facilities aimed at students’ extracurricular development.



Generally, colleges are more expensive than high schools though there are private high schools with costlier tuition than what students in community colleges pay.

Averagely, a college student incurs more expenses since the preparation to transition from high school to college does have its own financial aspect. The general perception is that parents bear the full payment of their children’s high school tuition but in the case of college, many students either rely on scholarships or seek alternative ways of covering expensive college tuition and fees.

In order to fund their college life, a student will incur much more expenses than the usual (petty) expenses that come with high school education.

Except for older students who are now partly responsible for their financial life, high school students always have to rely on their parents for the needed amount of money to fund both curricular and extracurricular activities. After their transition to college and probably because colleges are much more expensive, the students may begin to work on a part-time basis so that they can cater for transportation, food, rent or certain other aspects of their college expenses.

Is There Any Similarity between High School and College?

There isn’t much to say about the similarity between high school and college. Although one is more advanced than the other, both college and high school are seats of learning where students acquire the knowledge that prepares them for their desired career paths.

One more thing high school and college have in common is exposure to meaningful social life. In both colleges and high schools, students are allowed to partake in social activities and groups along with their fellow students. By dint of such groups and activities, the students are encouraged to create and maintain meaningful friendships.


Without any doubt, there are considerable differences between high school and college. While college trumps high school in terms of freedom and social life, high school undeniably offers lesser workload.

Overall, a student can expect to acquire invaluable knowledge from both high school and college, depending on the student’s capabilities and quality of the school attended.

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