Differences Between High School and Postsecondary Ed

Below are several common differences between high school and postsecondary ed. This is not an exclusive list as some universities, colleges, and professors may have different procedures.

(This list is adapted from:  Academic Learning  Enhancement  Center, Southern  Methodist  University/BC). 

Differences Between High School and Postsecondary Education

High School College

Education is a right and must be provided to all individuals free of charge.

Education is an opportunity--students must meet certain criteria for eligibility and pay tuition.
The school district is responsible for identifying a student's disability and developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to define educational services. Students must self-identify to the appropriate Disability Office, request services, and provide documentation--a previous IEP may be sufficient documentation. Diagnostic/evaluation information is often necessary. Accommodations are individually determined based on a documented disability.
Parents advocate for the student.  Students are expected to self-advocate for their needs. 
High school is a structured environment where most of the student's time is defined. Limits are set by adults/others. Students have a great amount of "free time" which is unstructured. This can be a problem if spent skipping class, sleeping, partying, hanging-out with friends.

High School College
The school year is 36 weeks long; some classes extend over both semesters and some don't. The academic year is divided into two separate 15-week semesters, plus a week after each semester for exams.
Classes generally have no more than 35 students. Classes may number 100 students or more depending on the class and University.
Classes meet daily and are typically held in the same building. Classes may meet 1,2,3, or 4 times a week and are often held in different buildings.
You may study outside class as little as 0 to 2 hours a week, and this may be mostly last-minute test preparation. You need to study at least 2 to 3 hours outside of class for each hour in class.
You seldom need to read anything more than once, and sometimes listening in class is enough. You need to review class notes and text material regularly. This is done independently (on your own).
Textbooks are typically provided free of cost. Textbooks are purchased or rented by the student; they often cost about $500 per semester.
You are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed, and often re-taught, in class. You are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing which may not be directly addressed in class.
Fundamental modifications to programs and curricula are required. There is no fundamental alteration of essential elements. Appropriate accommodations are provided. Students must be otherwise qualified. Universities have no obligation to waive academic requirements or essential standards.
Guiding principle: You will usually be told in class what you need to learn from assigned readings. Guiding principle: It's up to you to read and understand the assigned material; lectures and assignments proceed from the assumption that you've already done so.

High School College
Teachers check your completed homework. Professors may not always check completed homework, but they will assume you can perform the same tasks on tests.
Teachers remind you of your incomplete work. You are responsible for making sure work is done and on time.
Teachers approach you if they believe you need assistance. Professors are usually open and helpful, but most expect you to initiate contact if you need assistance.
Teachers are often available for conversation before, during, or after class. Professors expect and want you to attend their scheduled office hours.
Teachers have been trained in teaching methods to assist in imparting knowledge to students. Professors have been trained as experts in their particular field.
Teachers provide you with the information you missed when you were absent. Professors expect you to get from classmates any notes from classes you missed.
Teachers present material to help you understand the material in the textbook. Professors may not follow the textbook. Instead, to amplify the text, they may give illustrations, provide background information, or discuss research about the topic you are studying. Or they may expect you to relate the classes to the textbook readings.
Teachers often write information on the board to be copied in your notes. Professors may lecture nonstop, expecting you to identify the important points in your notes. When professors write on the board, it may be to amplify the lecture, not to summarize it. Good notes are a must.
Teachers impart knowledge and facts, sometimes drawing direct connections and leading you through the thinking process.  Professors expect you to think about and synthesize seemingly unrelated topics.
Teachers often take the time to remind you of assignments and due dates. Professors expect you to read, save, and consult the course syllabus (outline); the syllabus spells out exactly what is expected of you, when it is due, and how you will be graded.
Teachers carefully monitor class attendance. Professors may not formally take roll, but they are still likely to know whether or not you attended.

Teachers approach students to see if they need assistance.

Every semester, students must initiate contact with Professors to discuss the implementation of their accommodations in each course.
Guiding principle: High school is a teaching environment in which you acquire facts and skills. Guiding principle: College is a learning environment in which you take responsibility for thinking through and applying what you have learned.

High School College
Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material. Testing is usually infrequent and may be cumulative, covering large amounts of material. You, not the professor, need to organize the material to prepare for the test. A particular course may have only 2 or 3 tests in a semester.
Makeup tests are often available. Makeup tests are seldom an option; if they are, you need to request them.
Teachers frequently rearrange test dates to avoid conflict with school events. Professors in different courses usually schedule tests without regard to the demands of other courses or outside activities.
Teachers frequently conduct review sessions, pointing out the most important concepts. Professors rarely offer review sessions, and when they do, they expect you to be an active participant, one who comes prepared with questions.
Guiding principle: Mastery is usually seen as the ability to reproduce what you were taught in the form in which it was presented to you, or to solve the kinds of problems you were shown how to solve. Guiding principle: Mastery is often seen as the ability to apply what you've learned to new situations or to solve new kinds of problems. Performance is evaluated (not effort).

High School College

Parents have access to student records.

Parents do not have access to student records without the student's written consent.
Grades are given for most assigned work. Grades may not be provided for all assigned work.
Consistently good homework grades may raise your overall grade when test grades are low. Grades on tests and major papers usually provide most of the course grade.
Extra credit projects are often available to help you raise your grade. Extra credit projects cannot, generally speaking, be used to raise a grade in a college course.
Initial test grades, especially when they are low, may not have an adverse effect on your final grade. Watch out for your first tests. These are usually "wake-up calls" to let you know what is expected—but they also may account for a substantial part of your course grade. You may be shocked when you get your grades. 
You may graduate as long as you have passed all required courses with a grade of D or higher. You may graduate only if your average in classes meets the departmental standard—typically a 2.0 or C.
Guiding principle: Effort counts. Courses are usually structured to reward a "good-faith effort." Guiding principle: Results count. Though "good-faith effort" is important in regard to the professor's willingness to help you achieve good results, it will not substitute for results in the grading process.