A window inside life at Augustana College

Five Differences Between High School and College… That You Might Not Have Known Before

The title’s pretty self-explanatory. Everyone always tells you college is a whole different ball game. And there are some fairly obvious differences: you take far fewer courses in college than high school but the workload is much larger, you live among people your own age instead of with your parents, it’s up to you whether you go to class or not, do your homework or not, go out to a party when you have a paper due the next day or not. But there are some differences that people don’t normally tell you about, and that’s what I’m here for. So here goes, the top five least known differences between high school and college.

1) The vast majority of students carry backpacks regardless of gender.

I don’t know about you, but at my high school, the only people who carried backpacks were male. Girls carried those little Vera Bradley backpacks that look cute, but hold next to nothing. Or those giant tote bags. And guys, if they weren’t carrying a backpack, just carried their books in their hands. Around here, nearly everyone has a backpack. Why? Well, you tend to have a lot more textbooks in college than high school, and you generally can’t run back to your dorm between classes to grab them. Also, you just have to carry a lot more stuff around. Maybe, after class you have to go straight to two other places – let’s say a practice and a meeting. So you carry your gear around with you. Plus, backpacks are a lot easier to lug up hills and stairs than tote bags.

2) Everyone carries a water bottle

I always carried a water bottle because most of the drinking fountains at my high school gushed metallic-tasting water. I was one of the few that did. At Augustana, though there are drinking fountains in most buildings, it’s just more convenient to carry a bottle around so you have a nice, refreshing drink when you need it. For example, halfway up the Olin stairs. There are a hundred and ten, yes, a hundred and ten of them, and around move-in time in mid-August, it was not fun walking up them.

3) Random people smile and say hi to you when you’re walking around campus

And it’s not just freshmen. If you smile and don’t completely ignore someone, chances are they’ll smile at you and say hi. So very different from high school when everyone was so absorbed with their cliques and friends. I think this might be my favorite thing about college.

At orientation, in fact, a sophomore peer mentor said, “You went to Fremd High School, right?”

I said that I had, and turns out she remembered me reading something I’d written at Writers Week, my sophomore year. Now, that wouldn’t have happened in high school. No one would come up to you and say, “Hey, I remember you from seventh grade!” because they would probably earn a strange look and an “Um, whatever,” in response.

But memories don’t have to stretch all the way back to high school. A few weeks ago, in fact, I was walking back to Westerlin from a class when this girl who looked vaguely familiar smiled at me and said hi. I returned the greeting, and was about to continue walking when she said, “Ruki, right?”

“Um, yeah,” I responded, frantically wondering if and where I’d met her before.

Turns out that she was the one in charge of the table for one of the many clubs I signed up for at the Activities Fair during orientation. And she remembered me from five weeks ago.

4) You have to leave at least fifteen minutes early to get anywhere on time

Gone are the days of hanging out at your locker with friends during passing period, realizing you have a minute to get to class, and still making it on time. Number 4 isn’t really true if you’re in the quad already, but if you’re going somewhere from your dorm, even fifteen minutes early might be pushing it if you have to go to Sorenson, which happens to be the furthest point on campus from just about anywhere. This is kind of frustrating, and there have been days when I’ve been involved with something, realized I have ten minutes to get to class and literally ran most of the way there. But you get used to it.

5) It’s not unusual for meetings to start at 9 or 10 pm. On a school night.

In fact, the meetings for Alpha Psi Omega, the theatre group (I’m not calling it a frat because it’s mixed gender), are every Thursday, at 10 pm. Which is why I haven’t gone to any of the meetings since the first one. But I’m thinking I’ll probably go to the next one, because the cool thing about Augustana is that it has ACES, a van service that’ll pick you up and drop you off anywhere on campus from 7 pm till 1:50 am seven days a week. Walking around a dark campus at night is creepy, but never fear ACES is here!

But maybe it’s just theatre things that happen late at night, because I’m in a student-directed play, and the two rehearsals I’ve been to so far have been at  10 pm and 9 pm respectively. Luckily, they were in Westerlin, where I live, which was nice because I didn’t have to walk around in the cold.


So there you are. Five differences between college and high school. It’s kind of amazing how quickly you get used to college, though. Tomorrow is the start of week 9 of classes, and it feels like I’ve been here forever!

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