High School vs. University

by frank-stuart

Thinking about taking your first steps to university? Regardless whether you are finishing high school or just considering a career change, your expectations of university will usually be based on your last educational experience – and for most students, that experience is high school.

So what are the differences? Here are some key differences between High School and University…

Learning Space

University campuses can be much larger than high schools – it is much more than classrooms and ovals. When you start uni, you will need to spend some time getting to know your environment and working out where your lecturers and tutorial rooms are located. Remember there will be staff and students to help you find your way around.

Learning Delivery

At school, your teacher is often directing your learning and teaching you the ropes. On the other hand, the learning structure at uni is also interactive but you are expected to be more independent and self-directed.

Uni study is often a blend of applied theory and practice and can involve face-to-face or online lectures, tutorials, labs, and blogs, virtual classrooms, online discussion forums or wikis.

Learning Style

You might find university recognises the importance of new ideas, intellectual freedom, and the pursuit of open enquiry. At uni, critique and analysis are expected as well as higher order thinking skills in contrast to simply memorising and applying concepts and theories.

Learning Structure

At school, you have subject specialist teachers providing you academic support where they tell you when to do your homework and how you can achieve good marks.

At uni, your tutors and lecturers are experts in their field and may come from a diverse range of industry experience. They won’t necessarily remind you of assignment deadlines and it is expected that you keep notes of all the information shared in class. Most universities have an academic library to access a wide range of information resources.

Learning and Time Management

At school, you’ll typically be told what and when to study and follow a set time timetable with pre-set days and times pre-arranged by the school.

At uni, you will need to self-manage your time as your days and timetable may vary each semester. You will also be expected to be more self-disciplined and independently seek out information on your own.

Learning Group Sizes

Compared to your average class at school, the number of students you will generally find in tutorials and lectures can appear quite large. It depends which university you go to and how many students are enrolled in your course.

Learning Groups

At school, you normally study and take classes with students your own age and your peers are often from the same location and socio-economic background as you. Uni students are more diverse and come from a wide range of ages, places and cultures. You’ll probably find that despite the differences, there will be lots of opportunities for you to meet new people who share the same passions as you. Being part of a study group is also a great way to expand your social networks and share your day-to-day experiences.

Learning Expectations

At school, you are working towards set exams and regular homework. Your teacher would review your progress and provide you with feedback to assessments in class.

At uni, you generally work on continued assessments typically over three to four years (full-time study). You will need to ‘keep-up’ with set assessments and tasks and there will be higher expectations of your writing, researching and overall quality of work.

Learning Support

At uni, your tutors and lecturers won’t always be accessible as they were in high school. So when classes start, it’s important that you keep track of your course work and take note of how you can contact academic staff as they usually have set consultation hours.

Some universities offer a number of services and academic support for those students that need help with uni life to maximise their academic potential.

Are you exploring your study options? ACPE delivers bachelor degrees designed to launch your career in sports and target your particular interest in PE Teaching, Dance, Sports Coaching, Fitness & Sports Science and Sports Business.

Hear what our graduates have to say and learn about what life is like at ACPE.

Visit ACPE website >


By Angelee Boyd – Associate Dean (Student Services) at ACPE

Angelee commenced at ACPE in 2002 and in 2007 and was appointed Associate Dean (Student Services). She has held Course Convenor roles for the Bachelor of Education and the BHM (Sport) degrees and managed the Elite Athlete Program. Angelee is currently on leave in the USA with her family for 2012 and is still developing and leading online units for ACPE. She will graduate with her PhD in July 2012. 

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