Transitioning To College: Academic Responsibilities in High School vs. College

Going off to college is an exciting milestone in a young adult’s life. It represents a significant step in the transition between adolescence and adulthood. Students are often thrilled about their newfound independence. However, with independence comes responsibility. Many students are unprepared for the initiative and diligence required of them to become successful college students.

In high school, parents and teachers often closely monitor students’ progress, assisting them in setting priorities to ensure that they fulfill their responsibilities. Students spend an average of 35-40 hours per week in classes that have largely been chosen for them. The small size of these classes (usually less than 35 students) allows individual relationships to develop between teachers and students. Teachers often check to see that homework is completed, provide deadline reminders, and approach students who appear to be struggling. Most assigned work results in a grade, allowing students to recover from low initial test grades.  

In college, students are responsible for setting their own priorities. They will experience more “free” time than they had in high school, which they alone must manage. Students generally spend 12-16 hours in class per week, which may make college seem like a vacation compared to high school. However, college students are expected to spend 2-3 hours studying outside of class for every hour they spend in class. They choose their own classes and must ensure that they fulfill the requirements for graduation. In large classes (e.g., over 100 people), professors infrequently take attendance. It is up to students to establish relationships with their professors and teaching assistants. Class grades may be entirely based on a midterm and a final, which can make it very difficult for students to recover from an initial low grade. If a student is struggling, it is up to him or her to seek help.

If you are a college student struggling with your adjustment to college, consider seeking help from a mental health professional at Georgetown Psychology Associates. We can help you to navigate this transition.