General Question

wundayatta's avatar

Is (was) college easier than high school?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) February 9th, 2011

NPR, this morning, reported a study that finds that high school was actually tougher than college. This echoes a question recently asked by Papayalily, who had that experience.

I would like to ask some questions to get people’s experiences:

1) What kind of high school did you go to? (Size, location, magnet or neighborhood, those kinds of things.)

2) How old are you?

3) What kind of college did you go to? (national ranking if you know, size, expertise, etc).

4) Did you find college to be easier than high school? If so, in what way?

5) If you did find it easier, how did you feel about that? If not, was college what you expected?

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27 Answers

mowens's avatar

I didn’t try in high school and got a 3.5.

I tried in college and got a 3.8.

sarahjane90's avatar

College is definitely harder than high school. The work load, huge amount of independence and requirement to be completely self motivated makes it more difficult. Exams are longer and more in depth, you have to do a lot more studying, and it is more stressful because it feels much more important and relevant to your life. It is no longer very feasible to ‘wing it’, like it was in high school.

I went to a private high school, I am 20. I am going to a middle of the road college, specializing in law. It is not really what I expected – I knew it would be a lot of work but high school definitely did not prepare me for it!

tedd's avatar

Material wise, college is much harder (pending your area of study). Overall experience wise, College is about 10x easier.

TexasDude's avatar

1) What kind of high school did you go to? (Size, location, magnet or neighborhood, those kinds of things.)

Small rural/suburban school in a very redneck area. I had some great teachers, though, and relatively small class sizes. School was 99% white.

2) How old are you?


3) What kind of college did you go to? (national ranking if you know, size, expertise, etc).

One of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the South. 1200 or so students. The only college (that I know of) that requires all undergrads to write a thesis and pass a set of comprehensive final exams at the end of their college career.

4) Did you find college to be easier than high school? If so, in what way?

Yes, but not for reasons most people might think. I’m a lot more emotionally stable than I was in highschool and thus more able to handle work and studying and social life and that sort of thing. I did very well in highschool, but I’m doing even better in college.

5) If you did find it easier, how did you feel about that? If not, was college what you expected?

It’s awwwiiiittteeee.

syz's avatar

High school was easy. In fact, I never studied and got all A’s. Then, I went to college and that so did not work. There was also the fact that the college itself was larger than any town I had ever lived in – I was lost. College was definately harder.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It was.
I took it more seriously and ignored most distractions.

Seaofclouds's avatar

1) I went to a public high school in Delaware. It was the only high school in our district. It had 2,200 students my senior year with over 400 of those being in the senior class. It was in a decent neighborhood, but still had it’s fair share of problems (lots of fights, a few race riots, a cop that was stayed at the school anytime students were in it, etc).

2) I’m 29 right now, will be 30 this summer. I graduated high school in 1999. I graduated college in 2006 (diploma in nursing), 2007 (ADN), and 2010 (BSN).

3) I went to two different colleges. First I went to Delaware Technical & Community College for my diploma in nursing and my associates degree in nursing. Then I went to the University of Delaware for my BSN. According to this site, UD is #75 in national universities.

4) The general courses (composition, technical writing, sociology, general psychology, chemistry, etc) were about equal to what I had in high school and I had to put forth about an equal level of effort for those classes. In high school, all of my classes were honors classes and college prep classes. My courses specific to my degree (nursing classes, anatomy & physiology classes, and microbiology class) were a lot harder than the others and took a lot more effort to maintain the As and Bs I was accustom to getting.

5) College was exactly what I expected it to be. I didn’t expect everything to be harder because of the level of classes I was taking in high school (the honors and college prep classes). I did expect the nursing program to be tough. It was competitive to get into the nursing program and staying in the program required constant focus and dedication to remain in the program.

geeky_mama's avatar

1. I went to three different high schools – one of them in Japan.
Two were very small (graduating class ~25 people) one very large (graduating class in excess of 1000 people). All three high schools were considered private and competitive (college prep type schools).

2. 38

3. I went to Ohio State University (huge public University) for both my Junior and Senior year of High School. Then I transferred to for my “real” college experience to another school in Ohio—-known as being “Public Ivy”—Miami of Ohio. It’s considered very good esp. for education and business degrees…but I dono, it’s not like it was Harvard or MIT.

4. & 5. I found high school easier than university. I actually enjoyed both—but found that university required more effort – and was primarily about me figuring out how to manage my time effectively and find balance (between work, school work and daily life—like laundry, preparing meals, etc.).

Just my opinion but.. I think for North America in general high school (even if you’re taking AP or IB courses) is a “stepping stone” to University and is easier..

In Japan however, high school is WAAAAY harder than University.
University (for most degree paths) in Japan is like a 4 year vacation before real life begins. My friends at Japanese Uni often skipped classes (attendance wasn’t always checked, didn’t seem to matter) and skated by with the greatest of ease. Japanese high school, however, is covering maths and science and language at a level that we in the US would consider to be University level. Also, the focus in Japanese H.S. is preparation for University Entrance Exams. Everything hinges on that. If you do really well and get into Todai (Tokyo Daigaku)—that’s like a golden ticket to the best jobs in the future.

I think the path is less clear for most US Univ. graduates. We don’t really train for careers.. we allow people to get degrees in areas of interest (which is great, don’t get me wrong!).. like linguistics, English Lit, History and Philosophy. My own liberal arts degree didn’t really prepare me for the working world at all.. but it gave me a strong basis in history, political systems and critical thinking. Maybe that’s all you can hope for in liberal arts.

I know there are some programs (medicine, pharmacy, nursing) that are career oriented and I’d be willing to wager they are more difficult than what I studied. I hear Pharmacy programs in particular are really tough these days (from my aunt, who is a pharmacist).

zenvelo's avatar

I was a lousy student, mostly because I learned early on that i did not have to do any work and could still cruise. That lack of discipline made college much harder for me than it had to be.

I went to a well ranked suburban high school in California in the early 70s. I went to a campus of the University of California, which is now considered one of the top 20 public university campuses in the US.

College requires a significant amount of self motivation and concentration on courses. Some are damn hard, the toughest outside of medical school. (Organic Chem anyone?). Even “easy” majors require a tremendous work load: one quarter that was heavy on literature electives I had close to thirty novels, plays and short story collections to read in a ten week quarter. That was in addition to the 20 hours a week of accounting homework.

My best grades were when I was working 32 hrs/week and taking 22 units. I was so busy I had every hour from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. scheduled for the whole quarter. College requires that kind of discipline to succeed.

john65pennington's avatar

My University days were much harder than high school. As I think about it, it took me twelve years to mold my friends and setting in high school. I was comfy and at home with my surroundings.

Not so in my college. Strangers were there and I felt I was a loner, for a while. No more comfort of knowing what classes I could ace or what classes the teachers would like me or not.

There is a difference.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

College was much tougher from an academic standpoint. I went to a tiny public high school, graduated with a class of 50. Sailed through high school with hardly any effort, straight A’s etc. Went to an Ivy League college. Major education shock. But it was well worth it.

Cruiser's avatar

Depends on the university. Community college was a joke and was easier than High School and when I crossed over to my State University there is no comparison unless you are taking a creative college course. The math English science you had to take for the BS/BA curriculums are brutally hard. I think the difference here is many people in college are paying their own money to be there and study hard which makes it seem easy in the long run. If you study enough any class can seem easy.

coffeenut's avatar

I don’t remember noticing any big differences between the two….

muppetish's avatar

1) The high school I attended had a student body of around 2500 students, which I think is fairly small for a suburb in my area. My class was around 300 students, but I am positive that far fewer than that walked to get a diploma. It was a neighborhood school with a low budget, low test scores, and low expectations. We were always on the verge of failing to meet WASC standards and being shut down by the state. The ethnic makeup reflected our city (90% Hispanic, 6% Asian, and then the rest of the populace. We had students who hailed from families of varying economic statuses (mostly white collar families, with a few upper-middle class homes sprinkled in the mix.)

2) I am twenty-one years of age.

3) I am currently an undergraduate English Literature major at one of the California State Universities (CSU). Our campus is known for its engineering and hotel hospitality management programs, neither of which are getting use from me. We are a commuter school with a student body of over 20,000 people (bigger than some campuses and smaller than others.) Our school offers graduate study for masters and teaching credentials.

4) For the most part, college has been easier for me because I am studying what I love. GE classes were strenuous to get through because I didn’t want to pay attention to the material, and some of my upper-division courses have been demanding in terms of workload, but overall, I am a much better student than I ever was in high school. It certainly helps matters that I have opened out of my shell a good deal more at university, thanks in part to being surrounded by like-minded individuals who are interested in the same area of study—a connection I was lacking in high school.

5) College is better than I expected. I was not anticipating the sense of camaraderie. I did not think that I would be dedicating extra hours to write research papers that weren’t on a syllabus (strictly for funsies, mind you.) I never expected that I would have professors that I had an actual bond with and who would support me in my endeavors. High school was not good times; college has been little else.

aprilsimnel's avatar

1) What kind of high school did you go to? (Size, location, magnet or neighborhood, those kinds of things.) I went to two separate high schools, the first being a regular big city high school with a couple of classes for gifted and talented students. There was no advanced curricula. There was just more homework at the same grade level. I could finish it all in 15 minutes and was bored. The second high school I attended was a smaller suburban school in a wealthy neighbourhood, but it was the same sort of work. I slipped off my senior year because of problems at home, but I graduated with a 3.8 overall GPA.

Frankly, after high school, I should’ve taken a gap year far away from where I was living, and taken some time to learn how to live on my own and be responsible for myself and meeting my own needs. I was lost in this regard once I started uni, and it affected my work and attendance there.

2) How old are you? 41

3) What kind of college did you go to? (national ranking if you know, size, expertise, etc). I went to a Big 10 land grant public university well-known for it’s Ag school, education and engineering departments, and football program. It’s one of the so-called “public Ivies” and frequently makes lists for top 25–50 universities in the world. I was a film major there, but considered doubling it with poli sci. I got a BA, but there were plenty of requirements in maths and science courses.

4) Did you find college to be easier than high school? If so, in what way? Actually, it was about the same, in terms of what I was capable of understanding and working on. And I mean my required classes outside my major, especially in the sciences, only I put in even less effort than I did in high school. I didn’t buckle down until my junior year, but by then, my cumulative GPA was shot.

5) If you did find it easier, how did you feel about that? If not, was college what you expected? I couldn’t be a people pleaser at a big school like I was at my small high school. Seminars had 500 students and I would be one of 40 in a discussion section. If I didn’t put in the work, or talk to my peers, TAs or professors, no one noticed me. Even more than in high school, succeeding university is completely up to the student. Unlike high school, where adults will intervene on your behalf, you must take up your own cause at uni and seek out resources yourself if you need help because then YOU are the adult. The only intervention I got was to be called into the Dean’s office and told to buck up or else I’d be kicked out. Even that little encounter was surprising, since at the time, the place had close to 50,000 undergrads, and I was surprised that I was more than a blip on anyone’s radar.

Austinlad's avatar

I went to high school in Texas, to college in NYC. I was smarter in college—not I.Q.-wise probably, but certainly goal-wise. Plus, I was more focused on learning than I’d been HS. That made college more interesting and important to me than HS, but definitely not easier.

gailcalled's avatar

1. Excellent public school in a commuter suburb of NYC. The class of 200 was tracked; half were in the college prep program and the other in the business path. Our half went to competitive colleges. I was always in the top three academically.

2. I went to one of the Seven Sister womens’ colleges (Wellesley, Smith, Vassar, Mt. Holyoke, Conn. College, Bryn Mawr). There were many women there who had attended the sophisticated NYC private schools and were more accustomed to critical thinking, analytical writing and more challenging science courses. I had, however, a year of pre-calc and fifth year French from HS.

3. By the end of first semester, I was ready to transfer to a secretarial school. Then my grades came with a congratulatory note from the dean. B+ and A- were considered honor marks. So I stayed.

4. I did not enjoy a room mate and was no longer interested in the rah rah extra-curricular activites. I studied hard and fell in love with a man from a neighboring Ivy school. We married at the end of my junior year. Looking back, I am sure it was because I did not want to live in the dorms. So I commuted with several other married students, wrote an honors thesis and graduated with distinction.

downtide's avatar

I found both to be really difficult, but college was way over my head academically and I quit before finishing the first year. That was back in 1985. I’m now 44. My high school was in rural England with a very large catchment area, there were about 1000 pupils between the ages of 11 and 18. My college was also rural, no idea how big. It’s a university now, but when I went, it was still a Polytechnic college. College was pretty much as I expected except for the work itself which was all way over my head, I didn’t understand enough of it to be able to get through the course.

Looking back, I would not have allowed my parents to talk me out of pursuing art at the age of 14. My brain was not made for science.

MissAnthrope's avatar

1) What kind of high school did you go to? (Size, location, magnet or neighborhood, those kinds of things.)

I went to a small private alternative school in San Francisco. There were about 75 people, grades 6–12. My class was about 12 people.

2) How old are you?


3) What kind of college did you go to? (national ranking if you know, size, expertise, etc).

Public/state school, apparently ranked 176 in the 2011 edition of Best Colleges / National Universities. It’s a great school for a few very prestigious and competitive programs like forensic science, medicine, and psychology. My major, wildlife biology, was one of the ‘not prestigious, so we don’t really give two shits’ programs. (or, at least that’s how it felt)

4) Did you find college to be easier than high school? If so, in what way?

No, definitely no. In high school, I barely put forth any effort and I made decent grades. It was such a breeze! I had just enough study halls where I pretty much never had to take a textbook home with me. I was able to do all my homework at school, go home, and have a chill afternoon/evening.

College requires more applying myself, more focus, and more studying. Part of my frustration in college is that some classes are super easy (like, say, if you mesh well with the professor’s style), while some are ridiculously difficult (I’ve noticed that professors can turn a class that should be challenging into a total nightmare, impossible to study for.. See Prof. Klandorf in Animal Sciences, for a concrete example). I really disliked this disparity of difficulty, especially when I noted that it hinged entirely on how the professor taught.

5) If you did find it easier, how did you feel about that? If not, was college what you expected?

Starting out, going to a very good and respected community college with an eye toward transferring into the UC system, college was what I expected. It was challenging, but I rose to it and made the Dean’s List my first semester, on top of carrying 18 credit hours and being in the school play. Yeah, I don’t know who that girl was or where she went.

Everything pre-WVU met my expectations. Going to WVU was a shock and I really didn’t like it. Don’t get me started.

DominicX's avatar

1. I attended a large, though highly-ranked public school in a rich neighborhood. But there were students there from all kinds of backgrounds (that’s the beauty of the diverse Bay Area).
2. 19
3. I go to Stanford University, which ranks 6th out of all universities in the country as of last year, I believe.
4. I’m finding college to be more difficult than high school (obviously), but in a different way. The workload is far greater and the classes are more difficult, but at least they (now) are classes that are for my major/minor and they are actually subjects I am very interested in and I am no longer required to take classes that I’m not interested in (as I was in high school). However, despite that, I found that I really didn’t have to put all that much effort into high school work and I was able to get straight A’s every semester (I know a fair amount of people who had this same experience). In college, I can’t get away with that anymore; I have to put in a lot of effort to get high grades, but it’s well worth it.
5. College was exactly what I was expecting. I assumed Stanford would be difficult and it is, but not outrageously difficult or anything; I’ve been doing quite well here, actually.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Ha! Validation, bitches! Happy dance

Yeah, really, college is about a million times easier for me. I’ll get to reading that report and these new answers just as soon as I’m done with the outline for my paper.

Nullo's avatar

Sorta. In college, I picked a major and courses that came easily to me, rather than having to deal with what Missouri thought was important that I learned. I’m not good with math and related subjects (it seems that my attention wanders when learning the operations), so if I had wanted to, I could have arranged a very challenging four years.
As it was, college ended up being mostly more work with more autonomy, and actual group presentations. I got really good at writing papers – I could hammer out an A-grade 4-pager (MLA) in under an hour.

Haleth's avatar

1) What kind of high school did you go to? (Size, location, magnet or neighborhood, those kinds of things.) I went to a great big suburban public school.

2) How old are you? 23

3) What kind of college did you go to? (national ranking if you know, size, expertise, etc). A big public college. The art program that I was in was in the top ten in the nation. Not sure the ranking for the school as a whole.

4) Did you find college to be easier than high school? If so, in what way? Not really. In high school, you have to be there eight hours a day, but there wasn’t that much work out of school. I did most of my homework on the bus, at lunch, or in other classes. In college, most of our workload was projects that we needed to do on our own time. We were expected to spend three times as much time working out of class as we did in class. I didn’t have the self-discipline to get it all done.

5) If you did find it easier, how did you feel about that? If not, was college what you expected? I found that college took a lot more self-motivation than I thought. It wasn’t enough just to show up with the right answers, it took a lot of work.

perspicacious's avatar

It depends on the student, the high school, and the college. My kids went to a very competitive high school and were super prepared for college. They went to selective colleges. The good thing was that they tested out of quite a few of the core subject requirements. For me, college wasn’t easier but it was a lot more fun because I had more control over what I studied. Everyone’s experience is different I suppose.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

1) What kind of high school did you go to? (Size, location, magnet or neighborhood, those kinds of things.) Midsized, suburbs – the lower class “ethnic” area of a generally whitebread area of the Denver metro.

2) How old are you? 24, starting college now

3) What kind of college did you go to? (national ranking if you know, size, expertise, etc). 4 year state college, 20–25K students (40+K on campus), expertise: HA! No, really, it’s a diploma mill. It’s basically a community college but 4 year instead of 2 year.

4) Did you find college to be easier than high school? If so, in what way? Omg, yes. For some reason, all the teachers seem to think either that we’re all 5 years old and have never heard any of these words before, or claim that slightly reformatting their words constitutes critical thinking. The papers are hard, but there’s no homework keeping me up for hours every night without helping me learn at all and dragging my mood down. Plus, there’s (some) actual recourse if a teacher isn’t specific enough, or a good communicator or whatever, as well as resources if you find yourself in need. High school was basically being expected to turn in publishable works without ever being actually taught how to do that – all the teachers assumed that either a) you had learned them before or b) they’d have to teach down to the dumbest student so much that it wasn’t worth their time.

5) If you did find it easier, how did you feel about that? If not, was college what you expected? Mixed feelings. On the one hand, it makes this experience much better. And really, if it’s as NPR says and it’s easy to get a diploma without working, then what a great time to get one (my diploma now is just as good as yours 40 years ago). On the other hand, holy shit are our high schools in the dumper. I know that the article was saying that college is in the dumper, but I don’t think the answer is to simply make college harder but to also make high school something with real value instead of simply the alternative to holding up liquor stores and loitering 7–11s.

Nullo's avatar

1) A few thousand kids – mid-sized, I’d guess. The town has been described by such worthies as TIME Magazine as being like Mayberry.

2) 23

3) State school (University of Missouri), ~60k students. Lots of commuters and Continuing Education sorts, so not much in the way of school spirit. They try, but who goes to a club that meets in the middle of the day?

4) As noted above, there was more work. With the exception of things like Ancient Philosophy (where you find totally alien ideas of how the world might work), Chemistry (which I didn’t really have in HS), and Medieval History (which indirectly challenges everything that you thought that you knew about the Middle Ages), my classes were not challenging – a lot was common sense and learning principles to guide older skills like writing. I doodled and, towards the end, dozed, my way to As and Bs – I actually outlined a novel during International Marketing.
In fairness, my retention improves when I doodle. And a lot of the doodles were nifty, repeating, interlocking patterns.

5) At the time, I was glad that the classes were so easy – I am not, by natural inclination, a risk-taker, and I realized that even state school is not without its costs. In retrospect (that is, now that I’m beginning to forget things), I wish that I’d paid more attention, or taken harder classes.

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