High School vs. College: Studying

Family Modules

Module 1 Part 5



Objective: The student will learn some differences between studying in high school and in college and create a weekly study schedule based on a hypothetical college schedule.

Estimated time 30-45 minutes

Materials needed:

Classroom curriculum Link:

This is the third lesson in a series of high school/college comparisons in Module 1.

Learn About It

High School vs. College Part III

  • In Part III of the High School vs. College module, we will discuss the important concept of studying in college.
  • Time management is also a key concept. In this lesson, students will develop a weekly schedule for themselves that considers some differences in time and other variables.
  • Family members or other acquaintances who have attended college are encouraged to share their stories about studying and time management. Or, students and their families might simply talk about what they think the implications are for each comparison in the information provided.


Contrast Implications

Study Time

High School: Study time outside of the classroom varies and may be as little as 1–3 hours per week per class. Some classes may only require last-minute test preparation to succeed.

College: Students generally need to study at least 2–3 hours outside of class for each hour in class. A 12-hour course load will require 24–36 hours of studying per week.

  • In high school, most learning occurs in the classroom. Students are generally not expected to spend a large amount of time on schoolwork outside of class.
  • In college, most learning occurs outside of the classroom.
  • Students who follow the "2-3 hours per hour" rule of thumb actually spend a lot more time on schoolwork than they did in high school, even though they are spending less time in class.


High School: Students are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed and retaught in class. Students seldom need to read anything more than once, and sometimes just listening in class is enough.

College: Substantial amounts of assigned reading may never be directly addressed in class. Students need to review class notes and reading assignments regularly.

  • Students sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that if a topic was not addressed in class, they needn't learn it. That may be true in high school, but it is not true in college. Professors may assign reading that will appear on a test even though they never lecture on it.
  • In addition, some supplemental reading may never appear on a test in that class, but it may be critical to understanding concepts in a later course that builds upon the current class.
  • This goes along with the need to spend 2-3 hours studying for every hour in class.
  • Students will be more successful if they study each subject a little bit every day. Spreading out the review for a class is called “distributed practice,” in contrast to “mass practice,” in which students attempt to study for the class in one marathon session. Distributed practice is much more effective for long-term retention of information.

Independent Learning

High School: Students are usually explicitly told what they should be learning from assigned readings.

College: It is up to the student to read the assigned material and draw conclusions from it. Professors lecture and make assignments based on the assumption that students have

  • Students need to be independent learners in college. It is up to students to figure out what is important in the lecture and reading, and to use their critical thinking skills to analyze it.
  • College professors will assume that students have already read and understand the material before class, and students who have not done so are likely to be at a significant disadvantage in class.

Creating a Schedule

  • Download the following two college schedule documents:
    a sample student schedule and a blank student schedule.
  • Using the sample as a guide, complete the blank student schedule. Consider any specific time considerations or preferences that reflect your experiences and habits, such as class time, study time, recreation, daily living activities, and so on.
  • Share your schedule with your parents or a family member to get their perspective.

Parents Chime In

  • Before your student creates a schedule, review and discuss the sample schedule together. Consideration additional activities/interests that your student may want to schedule during their day. Encourage your student to schedule activities that he or she is interested in.
  • Include example class times, study time, and daily living activities. If your student is not a “morning person,” talk with him or her about not scheduling class/study time at 8:00 am. The schedule is intended to set students up for success, not to set them up for missing class or study time.

Objective Check

Have you accomplished today's objective?

Objective: The student will learn some differences between studying in high school and in college and create a weekly study schedule based on a hypothetical college schedule.

If so, congratulations!

If not, review the High School vs. College studying examples again and the student sample schedule and discuss them with your parents.