The Difference Between High School and College: Grades

College is a completely new experience and for us students who have freshly graduated from twelve years of schooling, it’s a huge transition.  After a few rough weeks of figuring things out, I’m pretty much in sync with the grading system in college. I know that as a high school senior, it seems pretty terrifying to say goodbye to regular assignments and routine chapter-by-chapter tests. Fear not, I’m here to help you out!

SEMESTER-BASED CLASSES

This is the biggest difference between high school and college. You no longer have year-long classes that are slow paced and in-depth.  College courses are fast-paced, extremely well planned out and comprehensive. Time flies in college. Why? Because classes end within a semester — that’s 15 weeks. If you take away holidays and breaks in between, a semester is pretty much finished in 3 months.

Because colleges offer so many courses at different levels and concentrations, it makes sense for them to be split into semester-long courses. In high school, you gain an overview and a general introduction of history, biology, chemistry, and math.  Once you get to college, you choose what you want to focus on depending on your interests, and for each topic that you indulge in, a semester is more than enough.

Because everything is compressed into a semester, college courses have fixed syllabi with little flexibility, but it’s nice being able to visualize exactly how the course is organized and which assignments are due every week. Even your dates for midterms and finals are announced early on! This is a blessing to everyone who loves calendars.

MIDTERMS AND FINALS

Ah, thinking about having only two exams for an entire course was my biggest fear coming into college.  But, trust me, it’s not that bad. You have to remember that courses are only one semester long, so having two to three exams in that time span is entirely appropriate. It is stressful to imagine that the majority of your grade depends on these exams, but keep in mind that there will be other assignments to boost up your grade.  Extra credit is rare, but attendance, participation, and/or weekly assignments can each account for about 10% of your grade.

Midterms and finals take preparation and work, so do not bring along your procrastination tendencies from high school to college. They will not work here. There is no way you can prepare for exams in one night. Give yourself a week or at least an entire weekend to prepare for exams. They’re really not that bad, even if they are cumulative.

LETTER GRADES

Letter grades are all that matter in college. In high school, everyone is caught up in their percent and number grades, but in college, as long as it’s an A, no one cares if it’s a 90 or 98.  Another huge difference is that some classes won’t regularly post grades on assignments.  There might not always be a portal to view all of your grades, so a lot of your time is spent keeping track of your grades and making estimations of where it may lie.

CURVES

A lot of classes in college use curves. So basically, your grade is dependent on how others perform in the class. At times, this is great because even when your average is a B (or even a C!), you can still end up with an A. But other times, this is a huge drawback because your grade can be lower than what you expect depending on the class grade distribution.

HOMEWORK

College homework is a lot easier than high school homework.  Even though the work may take longer, it is definitely easy.  Most of my work is comprised of readings, online assignments, and preparing for exams.  It’s nice to not have loads of busy work and daily assignments anymore. Also, classes don’t meet every day, so this gives me time to space out work and keep stress levels down.

NUMBER OF CLASSES

Whereas taking around 8 classes was the norm in high school, that’s a lot in college. In college, most students take around 15-18 credits per semester which adds up to about 5-6 classes. Also, you no longer have relaxer classes like P.E. and study hall! Each class you take will have a purpose- either for your major, minor or core requirements.  You might throw in a few for personal interest, but you have to be wise in time management and organization.  Each class is about an hour and 20 minutes (labs are 3 hours), so create your schedule wisely.

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2 thoughts on “The Difference Between High School and College: Grades

  1. Thanks for the information. I am a bit nervous about my first schedule for Fall 2018, as an SAS Honors Freshman, as I don;t want to overload myself.
    I am hearing some say ‘Take the hardest classes early…’ others saying ‘keep it simple your first semester’ and I won’t have access to my Honors Advisor until after the Semester begins so I have alot to think about and your article helped! Thanks

    • Of course! From my personal experience, I’d recommend keeping your first semester relatively simple because the transition from high school to college can be tough enough. I know college can seem overwhelming right now but once it starts, you’ll have all the resources you need available and it’ll be okay 🙂

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