Skip To Main Content

Toggle Close Container

Triggers Container

Toggle Schools Canvas

Toggle Site Info Canvas

Mobile Translate

Mobile Main Nav

Mobile Utility

Header Holder

Header Right Column

Header Right Top

Toggle Schools Canvas

Toggle Site Info Canvas


Utility Nav - Desktop

Header Right Bottom

Canvas Menus

District Canvas Menu


school & Program

Site Info Canvas


Get in Touch with

contact us

1495 Rice Street
St. Paul


Get In Touch Navigation

Search Canvas

Horizontal Nav


The Transition from High School to College

Transition From High School to College
How is High School Different From College? Below you will information on how college is different from high school in regards to classes, freedom, instructors and studying. These great resources were provided to us by Groves Academy in St. Louis Park.
How is High School Different From College--Classes
High School College
Each day you proceed from one class to another. You often have hours between classes; class times vary throughout the day and evening.
You spend 6 hours each day—30 hours a week—in class. You spend 12-16 hours each week in class.
The school year is 36 weeks long; some classes extend over both semester and some do not. At most colleges the academic year is divided into two separate 15-week semesters, plus a week after each semester for exams.
Most of your classes are arranged for you. You arrange your own schedule in consultation with your academic advisor. Schedules tend to look lighter than they really are.
Teachers carefully monitor class attendance. Professors may not formally take roll, but they are still likely to know whether or not you attended.
Classes generally have no more than 35 students. Classes may number 100 students or more, or they may be very small depending on the college.
You are provided with textbooks at little or no expense. You need to budget for textbooks, which will usually cost more than $200 each semester.
Your counselor guides your course selection and monitors credits. Graduation requirements are complex, and differ for different majors and sometimes different years. You are expected to know those that apply to you.
How is High School Different From College--Freedom
High School College
High school is mandatory and free (unless you choose other options). College is voluntary and expensive.
Your time is usually structured by others. You manage your own time.
You need permission to participate in extracurricular activities. You must decide whether to participate in extracurricular activities. (Hint: Choose wisely in the first semester and then add later.)
You need money for special purchases or events. You need money to meet basic necessities.
You can count on parents and teachers to remind you of your responsibilities and to guide you in setting priorities. You will be faced with a large number of moral and ethical decisions you have not had to face previously. You must balance your responsibilities and set priorities.
Guiding Principle: You will usually be told what your responsibilities are and corrected if your behavior is out of line. Guiding Principle: You’re old enough to take responsibility for what you do and don’t do, as well as for the consequences of your decisions.
How is High School Different From College--Instructors
High School College
Teachers remind you of your incomplete work. Professors may not remind you of incomplete work.
Teachers approach you if they believe you need assistance. Professor are usually open and helpful, but most expect you to initiate contact if you need assistance.
Teachers are often available for conversation before, during or after class. Professors expect and want you to attend their scheduled office hours.
Teachers have been trained in teaching methods to assist in imparting knowledge to students. Professors have been trained as experts in their particular areas of research.
Teachers provide you with information you missed when you were absent. Professors expect you to get from classmates any notes from classes you missed.
Teachers present materials to help you understand material in the textbook. Professors may not follow the textbook. Instead, to amplify the text, they may give illustrations, provide background information, or discuss research about the topic you are studying. Or, they may expect you to relate the classes to the textbook readings.
Teachers often write information on the board to be copied in your notes. Professors may lecture nonstop, expecting you to identify the important points in your notes. When professors write on the board, it may be to amplify the lecture, not to summarize it. Good notes or a tape recorder are a must.
Teachers impart knowledge and facts, sometimes drawing direct connections and leading you through the thinking process. Professors expect you to think about and synthesize seemingly unrelated topics.
Teachers often take time to remind you of assignments and due dates. Professors expect you to read, save, and consult the course syllabus (outline); the syllabus spells out exactly what is expected of you, when it is due, and how you will be graded.
How is High School Different From College--Studying
High School College
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 need to study at least 2 to 3 hours outside of class for each hour in class.
You often need to read or hear presentations only once to learn all you need about them. You need to review class notes and test materials regularly.
You are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed, and often re-taught, in class. You are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing which may not be directly addressed in class.
Guiding principle: You will usually be told in class what you needed to learn from assigned readings. Guiding principle: It’s up to you to read and understand the assigned material; lectures and assignments proceed from the assumption that you’ve already done so.
Off to College? Enter Here: The Changing Parent/Child Relationship
Written by Margo E. Bane Woodacre and Steffany Bane

Margo E. Bane Woodacre and Steffany Bane, the mother-daughter authors of Doors Open from Both Sides, provide alternating viewpoints and tips for parents and their college-bound student as they enter a new phase of their parent/child relationship.

Life is full of transitions. Some are painful, some bring happiness, but all involve a change from "life as it was." Passing through these transitions can be likened to opening new doors in life. Sometimes, though, fear of the unknown can accompany us as we open the new door. For families, a significant life transition can occur at the stage when their young-adult child leaves home for college. The new experiences and pressures in this phase of family life can challenge the relationship between parents and child.
We, as mother and daughter, learned much from our own struggles to preserve what had been a happy, communicative and somewhat serene relationship. We found that other families at the same stage were going through similar experiences and decided to learn more. This led to our research and then the book, Doors Open from Both Sides, which is aimed at helping families navigate this eventful time of life. In our own case, we realized that what was an unaccustomed struggle to understand each other in our changing roles, eventually led to a stronger, more communicative relationship for us as adults. Doors opened to a renewed happiness in our lives.
The following suggestions are drawn from our book, with the hope that they will help new college students and their families keep their doors open to one another as they experience the various challenges of the off-to-college transition.

Busy Life through the Senior Year
The Revolving Door

Entering and going through the senior year in high school is like navigating a revolving door: Attention needs to be focused on making a good exit. For parent and child, the senior year is full of activities that focus on the student's future. Paper work for college applications and decisions about school selection will add to the pressures of the school year. Along with these responsibilities for families come the excitement and fears of "What's next?" It is during this time that challenging emotions begin to surface for family members and parent/child relationships can be tested.

Mom's Tips for Parents:
  • Through the whole process, be patient and help keep the family lines of communication open. New anxieties about the future can cause unfamiliar emotions to erupt and tempers to flair. Understand that your child is subconsciously trying to learn to "let go" as, indeed, you are. As parents, openly, but tactfully, communicate any concerns to your child and encourage him/her to do the same with you. You can still set some boundaries, but demonstrate growing trust in your young adult and give him/her independent space and responsibility. When (and if) he/she shares, listen to her/him, practice patience in responding and keep the lines of communication open.
  • As his/her high-school experience comes to an end, understand the importance of friends to your child. As the college departure approaches, seniors will probably want to spend more time with good friends. There is comfort for them in bonding and sharing their anticipation of the next step with one another. Devise ways to give them space and time to be together.
  • Plan meaningful family time together. Too quickly, your college-bound child will be out the door. Make time for and enjoy special moments together. If circumstances permit, plan a family summer vacation, a long weekend or a special outing before the college move. Make sure the event is one in which both the parents and the young adult will be interested.
  • Anticipate the emotions of the eventual send-off. For all involved, the departure can be an emotional one that sometimes can create serious feelings of anxiety, loss and fears of the unknown.
  • Before the send-off, develop agreement on mutual expectations about grades and financial matters. Having a shared understanding of these matters before the child leaves for school can help avoid misunderstandings and challenges during the student's first semester.
Steff's Tips for Students:
  • Know that your parents will probably get on your nerves. Through this exciting, yet challenging, transition, try to be patient with your parents. Trust me, those who have been through it understand the sometimes overwhelming feelings that the senior year provokes. The last thing you want is your parent breathing down your neck about deadlines and "friendly reminders" (or sometimes not-so-friendly). Believe it or not, they are as excited as you are. Sometimes, they will express themselves in an "annoying" way, but know that they mean well, and do not take offense. Rather, recognize that through their experience of life, they can actually have great suggestions that will be helpful.
  • You will feel a need to spend much of your time with your friends. You are about to leave them as you head off to college. Enjoy their company while you can. If you explain this priority to your parents, they might better understand, as long as it doesn't interfere with other responsibilities.
  • Keep in mind that along with you, your parents might be feeling uneasy about the forthcoming separation. Find ways to spend quality time with your family, when possible. Whether it is shopping with Mom for school, attending events with Dad, celebrating special occasions, or going on a summer vacation--enjoy being together. Believe me, you will miss your family once you leave home.
  • If you are feeling unusually emotional or troubled about leaving home, communicate these feelings. Leaving the comforts of home, friends and familiar surroundings is not easy. Whether it is in a private conversation with your parent, relative or best friend, it helps to express your feelings. Almost always, you will be understood and validated.


Freshman Year--Communication with Sensitivity
The Screen Door
A screen door allows for an open view, while at the same time affording a degree of privacy. Similarly, communication between parents and their child away at school should have openness in expressing viewpoints but, at the same time, demonstrate mutual respect for privacy. For both parent and child, the changes in the environment will necessitate extra effort to maintain positive and supportive relationships.
Mom's Tips for Parents:
  • Don't bug your student during the first semester. Allow time for your student to comfortably adjust to college life. Plan on staying in touch, but arrange a time that is convenient for both of you to converse. Remember that 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday or Sunday morning tends not to work well for new college students!
  • Use the power of email. This form of communication is an excellent way to communicate for both parent and child. It is amazing what your student can and will share with you through this medium. There is no parental negative tone of voice or body language to which the student can react. We, as parents, can receive the messages, react and have time to reflect before responding.
  • Be aware of "signals" of unusual behavior from your child. Look for hints of chronic homesickness or persistent avoidance of communication from your child. If unusual behavior is sensed, arrange to get help through the proper college channels.
  • During your first visit to campus, understand, as a parent, that you are now on your student's turf. This is a time for enjoying his/her sense of role reversal. Allow for a healthy show of independence.
Steff's Tips for Students:
  • Stay in touch with your parents. It is difficult to realize how important it is to our parents that we keep in touch. They may worry too much, that's true, but trust that this is based on love and affection. They have little control over what you do while you're at school, so it won't hurt to take a moment to call and tell them how you are doing. Participate in setting a convenient, agreed-upon time once a week to talk.
  • Understand the possible repercussions of unnecessarily "unloading" problems on your parents. Once you unload your problem on your parents, whether it involves school affairs, relationships, homesickness, or just being unhappy, they will worry about it even more than you do. Whether we like it or not, our parents take on our problems, and it's sometimes difficult for them to let go.
First Visit Home
The Door Jam

The first visit home can bring warm feelings, excitement and, unfortunately, confrontations. "Home sweet home" can take on new and different definitions for parents and child when the latter settles in for this particular, unpracticed first visit.

Mom's Tips for Parents:
  • Be prepared for the first visit home to bring challenges. Remember that when your student returns home for the first visit, he/she will have changed. You might expect the same child who left in the fall, but understand that your student will be returning home with a good dose of independent living under his/her belt. This could be a time to consider a sensible renegotiation of home rules to fit the needs of all.
  • Your child will probably sleep late for the first few days. With finals usually just before vacation, your student could be exhausted. Give him/her space and time to catch up on rest. Also understand that most home beds are more comfortable than college beds!
  • Make sure that you spend some meaningful time with your child. Don't be surprised if your child wants to spend most waking hours with former high-school friends. When possible, arrange time for the family to be together. Whether it involves an activity or sport or just having a meal together, this will give all family members an opportunity to share views, discuss any differences and preserve an appreciation for family values.
Steff's Tips for Students:
  • Your first visit home might not be quite what you expected. Anticipate some challenges to the way you behave. You've been away at school for a couple of months. Perhaps you have developed a schedule of sleeping late on weekends and strolling in at sunrise. You can't wait to go home and enjoy the cooking and other comforts of home. Understand that even though your sense of schedule might have changed, your parents might not agree with you that a 5:00 a.m. curfew is reasonable. Sit down and figure out a reasonable time that you can come in that isn't a problem for you and your friends, but definitely one that gets you in before the rooster's yodel.
  • Be prepared for some initial awkwardness in home-life when you return. Respect home rules. Your house has been more quiet while you were away, your room, neat. Understand that this is still Mom and Dad's domain; let them know you respect this reality.
With the right efforts by both parent and child, relationships through the college years can mature into a more open and constructive phase. Patience and open and thoughtful communication can be the keys to developing and maintaining a healthy relationship that will preserve itself as the family walks through the future doorways of life.