The difference between university and school

  College University
Attendance Attendance is compulsory and is recorded in most classes. Absences are followed up and parents contacted.

Generally, most students need to remain on school grounds between set school hours.

Attendance is not taken in lectures, but it usually is for tutorials.

Absences are not followed up and parents are not contacted. Students are free to come and go as they please.

Time Management Time is management can be important depending on subjects taken and other extra-curricular activities. Parents often help to ensure you meet deadlines and help out if needed. Time must be self-managed and is a vital skill. There is little support available to students as students are expected to hand in assignments on time and balance other commitments.
Physical Environment High school grounds are limited in size depending on what size school you attend. Universities are generally much larger than high schools. They can be spread out with lecture theatres and tutorial rooms spread throughout the campus.
Class Size Most high school classes range from 25 – 35 students. First year lectures especially can be very large (100 -500 students). Lecturers are unlikely to know your name.
Learning Styles Often in class the teacher will talk explaining a task and you will complete it. It is often interactive and broken into different activities. Generally, most information is given to you in some form. Lecturers talk at you, in some courses there is little interaction with the lecturer. You are expected to take your own notes on top of what is supplied. Usually it is not activity based. You are required to learn independently and gather the information you need to complete assignments. You are given a lot of information in a short amount of time and you must work out what is relevant and what is not. You need to be able to think critically and generate new ideas. Most of your work is done outside lectures in your own time.
Lesson format Generally, at school it is face to face teaching which takes place in a classroom. A range of different classes are taught in different ways. Lectures, tutorials, computer based and/or online learning, laboratories, field work, sit down or take-home exams.


Assignments Assignments and readings are usually short. The topic is discussed in class, marking schedule is provided and students have a clear understanding of what is required to pass or achieve high grades. Often there is an opportunity for re-assessment. You are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing which may not be covered in lectures. Assignments can vary widely and marking schedules are less descriptive.
Calls Hours Set hours for class attendance. A fixed timetable is arranged for you. Depending on your course time in lectures etc can be low. There is a flexible varied timetable that you arrange.
Scheduling Work is managed and prioritised by teachers. They often work together to ensure students are not overloaded with assignments. Teachers remind students when work is due and there are often opportunities for extensions. Leading up to exams time is often made in class to study and go over exam questions.  Scheduling study and meeting deadlines for assignments is the responsibility of the student. No one will be following you up. If you miss deadlines you will fail that assignment.
Different kinds of information Often subjects in class teach you things that are already known. Exam questions and assignments generally ask you to reproduce the information that has been taught. If given problems, you are usually expected to solve them using techniques you have been taught. At university critical and analytical thinking are used where you are expected to extend and comment on what is known. You can be expected to apply what you have learnt to a new situation and solve new kinds of problems ( especially in the latter years of university).
Opportunity for assessment and feedback From Year 11-13 what you study is primarily builds towards an assessment or exam. Students receive constant feedback and often sit a mock exam. In most schools they have the ability to resubmit if they do not pass. Assessment is done in a variety of ways through essays, reports, exams, online quizzes, presentations etc. Feedback is limited and there are very few opportunities to resubmit.
What is expected from student work In NCEA there is a tight marking schedule that students must meet. In a number of subjects there is little opportunity for students to express their opinions or ideas. At university there is a broader range of acceptable responses to assignments. Students have more opportunity to offer their own analysis.
Flexibility Limited subjects offered especially in smaller schools. A timetable is set and often fixed. It can be difficult to change. University offer a huge range of subjects and the opportunity to study in other areas.
Diversity Students fit with an age range of 12-18 and often live in the same community Students are from different socioeconomic, age and cultural backgrounds. Students attend form all over the world.
Amount of contact with teaching staff Frequent access to teaching staff, relationships built with their teachers. Less frequent access to academic staff. Difficult in first years of university to build relationships with teaching staff.
Contact with parents Through parent teacher interviews there is the opportunity for teachers to discuss your progress with you and your parents. Progress reports are sent home to parents. Laws prevent teaching staff from disclosing information about a student’s progress or results to anyone other than the student. Grades are only accessible to the student.