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Is College Better Than High School? (A Student’s Insight)

The transition from the familiar cocoon of high school and your beloved hometown to the brand new college environment can be overwhelming, exciting, and intimidating all at once. For most students, it is the first time “leaving the nest” and finding true independence. When comparing high school to college, many aspects are both positive and negative. 

College is not always better than high school. While there are many benefits, there are also plenty of new challenges to conquer and self-discoveries to make. The experience that you have in college is based on your attitude and how you balance the freedom, stress, fun, and schoolwork in college.

The following sections will explain some of the benefits and negative aspects of college when comparing it to high school. Why college may be challenging, the possible advantages of high school, and how you can make your college experience better will also be discussed. So let’s get started. 

College vs High School - Which is better?

The Advantages of College

When comparing high school to college, college brings a decent amount of appealing benefits to the table. It is the opportunity to reinvent yourself, to meet new people, and start anew. The clean slate that college promises young adults is one of its most significant advantages. 

Let’s take a deeper look into some of the other positive aspects of college. 

Newfound Freedom

One of the most appealing things about college is the opportunity to operate as an independent adult for the very first time. 

Going to college means there is no one to nag you about cleaning up your room, no one to scold you for getting a C+ on your math test, and no one to badger you about going to bed on time. 

Many high school students look forward to entering an environment where there are no “rules.” You can do whatever you choose. You no longer have to ask permission for things, and you are in control of your actions (source). 

Meeting New People

Another positive aspect of college is leaving home, meeting people, and making new friends. 

Many high school students will get tired of the “bubble” that is their hometown and their friend group in high school. They have lived in the same place their whole lives and had the same circle of friends for years. 

Most often, college is the first time to experience new cities and new people. You have the opportunity to meet people outside of the familiar faces you have gone to school with since kindergarten.

For students who grew up in a small town, it can be the first time you are thrown into a bigger pond with bigger fish. Colleges can have thousands of students, which means you have more people to meet and new friends to make than ever before.

See How To Make Friends in College: 15 Helpful Approaches.

Choosing Your Education

Most students overlook the advantages of college because you have more control over what classes you take and what you will have to study. In high school, the curriculum is usually set in stone, and you must take specific courses, and that’s that. 

In college, you get to decide your major, choose your classes, and set your own schedule. Your lessons will also be more specific in their focuses (source). 

If you don’t like math, you can pick a major in the humanities or sciences.

If you hate history, you can choose a major that focuses on business or teaching. There are plenty of options to choose from that will meet your interests and needs.  

Most collegiate institutions also have initiatives for students who are unsure about their majors. These “undecided” programs are in place to guide those who have not decided on their studies to receive their general education credits first, discover their interests, and learn more about potential career options they might lean towards.

While general education classes are a requirement, the college will allow you to have more influence over what you study and why.

If you’re looking for ways to avoid taking general education classes, consider taking Advanced Placement (AP) or dual-enrollment classes before you graduate high school. This will allow you to potentially earn college credit before you even get there (source).

Better Social Scene

The social scene at college is very different from high school. In high school, you probably had friends that you saw during school or during your extra-curricular activities. Depending on your schedule, you might have had limited time to spend with friends, but this all changes in college. 

College brings the opportunity to spend more time with friends than at any other stage of your life. 

You will live with a roommate, and depending on your relationship with them, you will most likely spend a lot of time together. You can go to the dining hall to eat with friends at every meal, you can join study groups with other students in your classes, and you can even just hang out with other people in your dorm pretty much any time you want. 

In college, your friends are more accessible than ever, and you will definitely spend a lot of time together. Not only that, but college will have more social opportunities than high school. There will be more clubs, sports, and other student activities than you ever imagined in high school.

Student/Teacher Relationships

One of the most considerable benefits of college is that the traditional dynamic between student and teacher that you became familiar with in high school will improve tenfold. College professors are very different from high school teachers. 

Depending on your college’s size, your professors will most likely be able to spend more one-on-one time with their students. They will have office hours where you are able to meet with them and ask for help on assignments or seek advice on how to improve your performance in their class. 

No matter what college you choose to go to, all college professors will have one thing in common: they want to see you succeed. This means that they are usually more willing to dole out extra credit, study one-on-one with you, and make sure you are successful.

Disadvantages of College

Now that we have reviewed and discussed the main advantages that college holds over high school, let’s take a look at some of the potential disadvantages that college may bring and why high school might be better than college in certain aspects. 

Being Away From Home

While college is usually a student’s first opportunity to spread their wings and leave the “nest” that is their familiar hometown, being away from home can be difficult for some. 

For first-year students especially, the transition between living comfortably at home to being in a completely new environment can be challenging. 

This is an aspect where high school might have an advantage over college. In high school, you can always return home to see your family, sleep in your own bed, and enjoy the safe haven that your house has always provided. 

Not every student will struggle with homesickness, but it is a fairly common occurrence in college that you should be aware of. 

Difficulty Making New Friends

You might be thinking, how can making new friends possibly be in the “disadvantages” section when it was listed as an advantage? That’s because, for some, the prospect of having to make friends in college is a double-edged sword. 

While it can be exciting to meet brand new people and have the opportunity to start a new friend group, for some, making new friends in college can be very daunting and overwhelming. If you are more introverted, putting yourself out there to meet other new students might be challenging. 

The first couple of weeks of college can be rough as everyone sorts through the social scene and discovers who they want to engage with. You also might find that all of your new friendships might feel very surface-level and superficial in the beginning. 

This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. 

However, it’s important to remember that the issue of making friends always sorts itself out. You will be in such a large environment that even if you go to a small school, you will definitely find at least one person who shares the same interests with you that you may become friends with. 

Lack of Free Time

Another obstacle that students may face in college is a lack of free time. 

You might find that in high school, it seemed like you had hours upon hours to do what you pleased when you pleased. Depending on your course of study, this may change drastically in college. 

Majors that require challenging classes, such as the STEM majors, can take up a lot of your time when it comes to studying. You might find that homework, assignments, and projects eat up all of your available time. 

Managing your time is one of the enormous difficulties students will face in college. 

It can be tempting to put off assignments and skip classes, but depending on the requirements for your major, you might very quickly find that the projects pile up, and you will fall behind if you don’t manage your time the right way. 

A lack of free time can also lead to some pretty big stress and anxiety issues for students. 

See What Is the First Day of College Like? (With Survival Tips!)

Academic Difficulty 

One of the potential disadvantages of college is that everything gets kicked up a notch in terms of academics and classes. It is called “higher education” for a reason. 

Some students may find that compared to high school, college is very challenging academically. 

The biggest reason that college is more complex than high school is because most classes are structured around exams instead of tests or quizzes. Some courses may only have a final at the very end of a semester or the end of the school year. This can be challenging because it means you will have to retain larger sections and chunks of information at any given time. 

It also means that there are fewer benchmarks to “check-in” with and see how well you know the material. In high school, usually, you would have a quiz or a series of quizzes before a test.

If you get a bad grade on the quiz, it is an indicator that you need to change the way you study to get a better grade on the test. In college classes, this is not the case. 

You can only prepare for the test, and if you get a bad grade, that’s it. 

College classes are also much more fast-paced than high school classes. Especially courses that only run for the duration of one semester or trimester, there is usually a lot of material packed into a short amount of time. 

Stress

One last disadvantage that college might have is more stress than high school. 

Many students view college as the direct gateway to graduate school or the career they want. Failure in college means closing potential doors and opportunities you might have otherwise had, which can cause a lot of stress. 

Not to mention, on top of all the academic and future career stress, having to manage your time, make new friends, and being away from home all at once can combine into what feels like a giant, never-ending tornado of anxiety that sweeps you away.

While not every college student will experience this, it is almost guaranteed that you will experience some form of acute stress during college. 

Key Takeaways 

When comparing college and high school, the two both bring many advantages and adversities along with them. Some students might have dreaded high school but soared in college, while others face challenges in college that make them miss the glory days of high school. 

It is almost impossible to say whether one is better than the other, but it is guaranteed that both high school and college will come with their ups and downs and be prepared for a time of growth, change, and learning no matter what.

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