There’s a lot to think about when transitioning from high school to college. It can be exciting and a little bit scary at the same time. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Keep reading to learn the main differences between high school and college and how to prepare for the transition. 

How is College Different from High School?

As you get closer to graduating high school, it’s time to start thinking about college. Rather than worry about all the unknowns, take time to learn as much as possible about the differences between high school and college to help you take the next step in life. The main difference is the level of independence you have after high school. In college, you’re expected to live independently and care for yourself while learning and growing academically.

Every college is structured differently, so the best way to prepare is to research the colleges you’re considering attending. Most offer tours and orientations to help you better understand how they work and what they offer students. You can learn a lot about classes, campus life, academic resources, and student support services by attending one.

5 Differences Between High School and College and How to Prepare

College is a time of change and new experiences, which can be both exciting and challenging. Here are some main differences between high school and college and how to prepare as someone with learning challenges.


Even if you attend a college close to home, you’ll be in a new environment. To prepare, learn as much as you can about the location. Search for similarities between the college city and where you live now. You may be pleasantly surprised that your new college town has your favorite restaurant or activity. Finding similarities can help you feel less overwhelmed and more comfortable about where you will be living.

Living Environment

One of the biggest differences between high school vs. college is that you will no longer live at home (unless you choose to commute to college). Living away from home for the first time can be scary. Most first-year college students live in dorms, and you will likely have a roommate. Sharing a room can be a little overwhelming at first, so be sure to pack your favorite things, like pictures of your family and pets or your favorite blanket.

Meal Time

You typically eat breakfast at home, lunch at school, and dinner at home while in high school. Adjusting to meal times at college can be difficult and overwhelming. Unfortunately, you won’t be sitting down with mom and dad for dinner. However, you can eat with your new friends at the cafeteria or your favorite restaurant. Different doesn’t always mean bad.

Another big difference between high school and college is there is no set meal time. Because each student has a different schedule, they are in charge of when and what they eat. Keep this in mind when creating your class schedule, and make sure you allow time for meals. Familiarize yourself with your college campus and surrounding areas so you know what food is available to you at any given time. And don’t forget to keep snacks in your room and your bag in case you get hungry.

Class Structure

Unlike high school, you may not attend classes Monday through Friday in college. Depending on your class schedule, you could have a class one, two, or three times a week. Each college breaks up the school year into sections. Some use “terms,” while others use “semesters.” When these periods are complete, you will create a new class schedule with all new classes. 

In college, classes are generally larger, and there are more opportunities to explore different subjects. College students also have more responsibility for their education, as they must schedule their classes and complete assignments on time. However, there are resources available to help you succeed, such as tutoring and office hours with your professors. It’s important to remember that college is a time of growth and discovery, both academically and personally. 


You are surrounded by many of the same people in high school for all four years. This gives you lots of time to meet new people and find friends like you. In college, on the other hand, you will encounter new people every day, everywhere you go. College allows you to make new friends in your classes and all around campus. There are opportunities to join groups, attend sporting events, and even volunteer. 

While there are a lot of differences between high school and college, finding people you can relate to will help you during this transition. Learning and growing with other people can help eliminate the anxiety and stress associated with change. It’s important to know that you do not have to do this alone. In fact, you will have a much better time if you don’t. Remember, the people you meet are going through a similar situation. Smile and ask people what their interests are–you might just make a friend.

Is College Harder than High School?

As any college student will tell you, college is harder than high school. In high school, you generally have more time to complete your work, and there are more opportunities for extra credit. In college, however, professors expect you to be able to handle a larger workload in a shorter amount of time. Additionally, there are usually fewer opportunities for extra credit, so it’s important to make sure you understand the material from the beginning.

However, harder doesn’t have to mean worse. College also offers more rewards than high school. For example, you have the opportunity to gain independence, meet new people, and learn about different topics that interest you. Overall, college is more challenging than high school, but it’s also more rewarding. 

Is College Better than High School?

So, high school vs. college, which is better? College can offer academic challenges that high school simply doesn’t have. In addition, there’s a greater sense of independence in college, as students typically live away from home and manage their schedules. This is why college can be an exciting time. Like most things in life, a positive attitude can make a world of difference. Ultimately, the decision of “is college better than high school?” is something you’ll decide once you experience it.

Ease into College Life with Support at Mansfield Hall

At Mansfield Hall, we encourage you to look at going to college for the first time as an exciting experience. You are going to make new friends, see new things, and experience what it’s like to be away from home and take care of yourself.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of transitioning from high school to college, you can find the support you need at Mansfield Hall. We understand that navigating the differences between high school and college is hard, especially when you have a learning challenge. If you want extra support as you transition to college life, learn about our college living and learning community to see if it is a good fit for you!