8 College Realities That Are Nothing Like High School
College is often referred to as “real life” when contrasted with high school, and that’s pretty much true for better and worse. This week we started thinking about college realities: how they compare to what you experience in high school and how they shape the rest of your life. Boiling it down to these 8 points, this is exactly what you can expect as you move from one chapter of your life to the next.
1 Teachers/Professors don’t really care if you succeed.
Teachers in high school tend to approach their jobs from a more emotional, student-focused point of view. They want to see you succeed, and they’ll do almost anything to make sure that you do. Call it jaded or call it a different focus, your professors by and large will have a different attitude. To them, the focus is more on a love for their material. It’s not that they don’t care about you as a person — some don’t — it’s just that they’re more passionate about their discipline than anything else. They’re going to teach that discipline in the best way they know how whether you’re ready to listen or not. Your grade is your responsibility. Unless 100 percent of their students are failing, it will have little impact on their job stability.
2 The work you do ‘matters.’
In college, the work that you do “matters” because if you don’t know it, you’re either going to fail, or you’re going to get to the end and get a degree that means very little. In high school, you can be passed along by teachers, who just don’t want to deal with the paperwork, and there will be very little in way of repercussions. Unfortunately for the students this happens to, those repercussions come home to roost at the postsecondary level, whether it’s through a hardline instructor or a company that fires you for not knowing what you’re doing.
3 There is always someone better than you.
This is not meant to be discouraging. It’s just reality. In high school, you could probably look at the lay of the land and say, one way or the other, that you’re the best running back or vocalist or tuba player. You have a finite pool of competition to compare yourself to, and whatever competing that you do is pretty much staying within the walls of your school and other schools in your district. In college, this is considerably rarer. You’re always going to be outrun, outplayed or outwhatevered by someone. That’s because colleges accept people from all over the world. It doesn’t mean you won’t find your niche, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be unable to take your strengths and your knowledge and package them into the best opportunity. But it does mean no more “inheriting” success.
4 Books are ridiculously expensive.
Seriously, $200 or $300 for a book? You won’t pay that in high school — most are furnished — and you won’t pay it any other time after college is over. It really is a unique beast.
5 Most decisions you make in college will follow you around the rest of your life.
While you can definitely make life-altering decisions in high school — getting someone pregnant, for instance — it isn’t as prevalent. In college, you could be making a life-altering decision every single day that you get out of bed. That’s because you live by each choice you make, no matter how small. No one else is responsible for it but you.
6 ‘Groups’ don’t work anymore.
Groups. Cliques. Call them what you will. You may get a few doors opened to you by belonging to this fraternity or this sports team, but it isn’t going to guarantee your success like it (often) does in high school. The good thing about this is that you have more of a chance to shine based on your own individuality.
7 More freedom equals more danger.
You can travel further than you’ve ever gone. You have no curfew. Few restrictions on your ability to interact. You can also make boneheaded decisions like applying for and accepting a high interest credit card. No one is there to stop you. The freedom is there, but so is the danger. It’s in the decisions you make and the company that you keep. Choose both very carefully.
8 You can break free of the mold you’re forced in to.
This is the absolute best part of college, and it’s where high school really fails you. When you enroll in a university, you are no longer subject to the whims and fancies of standardized tests, the politicians who dictate them, and the teachers who are forced to teach to them. This is where you can let your knowledge and passion out of the bottle and start finding out who you are as an individual rather than one in a herd of educational cattle. If you’ve ever felt bored or left behind, this is your chance to start making changes and owning those changes.
It would be nice if high school prepared you for college realities a little better than it does. Thankfully, you have everything you need within you to make the adjustments. Some of the changes ahead will be tough; others will be exactly what the doctor ordered. Knowing what they are, however, gives you the ability to make the best out of each one. Good luck!