ASDNext Educational Differences Between High School and College

Students shown from behind wearing backpacks on a college campus.

Photo by Stanley Morales via Pexels


This information sheet highlights some of the differences students experience between high school and college.

Responsibility in high school

  • High school is mandatory and usually free
  • Student’s time is structured by others
  • Students can count on parents and teachers to remind them of responsibilities and to help set priorities
  • Students aren’t responsible to know what is needed to graduate
  • Parents may help with advocacy and communication

High school classes

  • Class sizes are generally small (20 kids)
  • Students usually take the same classes for an entire academic year
  • Students go from one class directly to another, spending a full day in classes
  • Most classes are arranged for the student
  • Students may not need to study much outside of class, listening during class may be enough
  • Students are expected to read short assignments that are discussed and re-taught in class

High school teachers

  • Teachers check homework and remind students of incomplete
  • Teachers approach students to provide help
  • Teachers provide information when students miss classes
  • Teachers present information to help students understand materials in the textbooks
  • Teachers write notes on the board to be copied
  • Teachers remind students of assignments and due dates Teachers monitor class attendance

Responsibility in college

  • College is voluntary and usually not free
  • Students manage their own time
  • Students are responsible for themselves and setting priorities
  • Students are expected to know graduation requirements that
    apply to them and can be complex and differ from year to year
  • Students are responsible to advocate for themselves

College classes

  • Classes will vary in size from small to large (20-100+kids)
  • Academic year is divided into semesters, with different classes
    taught each semester
  • Students often have hours between classes, with times varying through the day and evening
  • Students arrange their own schedules
  • Students typically need to study 2-3 hours outside of class for each hour in class
  • Students are assigned large amounts of reading and writing
    which may not be reviewed or discussed in class

College professors

  • May not check homework or remind students of incomplete work
  • Expect students to initiate contact if help is needed and expect students to attend office hours
  • Expect students to get missed information from classmates
  • May not follow the textbook and expect students to relate class
    discussions to the text
  • Expect students to identify important points discussed in your
    own notes and may not write things down
  • Expect students to read and follow the course syllabus for assignments, due dates and grading
  • May or may not take attendance

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This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.