How is College Different From High School?

— State: Arizona Department of Education
Updated on Sep 30, 2009

Personal Freedom in High School

  • High school is mandatory and free (unless you choose other options).
  • Your time is usually structured by others.
  • You need permission to participate in extracurricular activities.
  • You need money for special purchases or events.
  • You can count on parents and teachers to remind you of your responsibilities and to guide you in setting priorities.
  • Guiding principle: You will usually be told what your responsibilities are and corrected if your behavior is out of line.

High School Classes

  • Each day you proceed from one class directly to another.
  • You spend 6 hours each day—30 hours a week—in class.
  • The school year is 36 weeks long; some classes extend over both semesters and some do not.
  • Most of your classes are arranged for you.
  • Teachers carefully monitor class attendance.
  • Classes generally have no more than 35 students.
  • You are provided with textbooks at little or no expense.
  • You are not responsible for knowing what it takes to graduate.

High School Teachers

  • Teachers check your completed homework.
  • Teachers remind you of your incomplete work.
  • Teachers approach you if they believe you need assistance.
  • Teachers are often available for conversation before, during, or after class.
  • Teachers have been trained in teaching methods to assist in imparting knowledge to students.
  • Teachers provide you with information you missed when you were absent.
  • Teachers present material to help you understand the material in the textbook.
  • Teachers often write information on the board to be copied in your notes.
  • Teachers impart knowledge and facts, sometimes drawing direct connections and leading you through the thinking process.
  • Teachers often take time to remind you of assignments and due dates.

Studying in High School

  • You may study outside of class as little as 0 to 2 hours a week, and this may be mostly last-minute test preparation.
  • You often need to read or hear presentations only once to learn all you need to learn about them.
  • You are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed, and often re-taught, in class.
  • Guiding principle: You will usually be told in class what you needed to learn from assigned readings.

Tests in High School

  • Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material.
  • Makeup tests are often available.
  • Teachers frequently rearrange test dates to avoid conflict with school events.
  • Teachers frequently conduct review sessions, pointing out the most important concepts.
  • Mastery is usually seen as the ability to reproduce what you were taught in the form in which it was presented to you, or to solve the kinds of problems you were shown how to solve.

Grades in High School

  • Grades are given for most assigned work.
  • Consistently good homework grades may help raise your overall grade when test grades are low.
  • Extra credit projects are often available to help you raise your grade.
  • Initial test grades, especially when they are low, may not have an adverse effect on your final grade.
  • You may graduate as long as you have passed all required courses with a grade of D or higher.
  • Guiding principle: “Effort counts.” Courses are usually structured to reward a “good-faith effort.”
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