If you’re anything like 99% of high school students about to head to university, you’re probably giddy with anticipation. Who’d blame you? University life is fun and exciting, and you’re heading into a new phase that is bound to bring on some truly fundamental changes – not just to your daily life but to you, as a human being.

But we’ll be brutally honest…it won’t all be plain sailing.

Given that knowledge really is half the battle won, being a step ahead and knowing the major differences you’ll face between school and university will help you navigate this exciting yet daunting journey.

No matter where you’re coming from, be it a Shanghai international school or a public school in the US, you’re bound to face changes. Here are a few fundamental ways in which your schooling and life will change:

- western international school of shanghai
– western international school of shanghai

You’ll be in charge of your attendance

Remember how tedious it was to have to bring a note to school whenever you needed to skip a day or leave early? Well, that won’t be needed anymore. Your attendance is now your responsibility, young adult! Great for intrepid and independent people but not always easy for those who’ve relied on others (i.e., teachers and parents) to keep them in check. But university life, being a precursor to real adult life, means you are now the master of your own attendance.

Most of your studies take place outside classes

Many high school students think homework ‘sucks’ until they get to university and realize what real research and assignment work is supposed to be like. Time-consuming and weekend-ruining, for a good part of 3-4 years. Classes are there to guide and inform you, but your critical thinking skills will shine through your assignments, which you’ll need to complete in your own time.

You’ll be part of much bigger classes

The anonymity of university life can be a brutal wake-up call for those who are used to small, intimate classes—especially those who have thrived with close supervision from their teachers. University lectures, however, can be absolutely huge, and among a crowd of dozens upon dozens, the only way you’ll shine through is through your meticulous work (i.e., your assignments above).

western international school
western international school

Teachers are no longer your ‘main’ point of reference

Having a homeroom teacher meant that you instantly had someone to go to if you had any issues. Not anymore. At university, the student body is the one who’ll hear your grievances and try to solve any issues you may have. Luckily, the best universities have plenty of services should you need them (like counseling),yet it will still be up to you to seek them out. In a sizeable crowd, like a big university lecture, you simply can’t expect a teacher to know you’re having any kind of problem, so you need to be proactive.

You won’t have anyone tell you if you’re falling behind

Gone are the days when a concerned teacher took you aside and told you that your grades had been slipping as of late. At university, there won’t be anyone to keep ‘tabs’ on you in this way – this is something you must do yourself.

You’ll spend a lot less time in class

Finally, some great news, right? Yes, your university schedule won’t look anything like the kind of 9-to-5 life that your high-school life resembled. The good news is that you’re likely to spend only about 20 hours a week in actual classes. The bad news is that you’ll need to be diligent about the other hours to ensure you complete all your assignments in time.

western international school of shanghai -
western international school of shanghai –

You will be pre-warned!

You will receive a year-by-year plan at university outlining all the assignments you’ll need to complete and their due-by date. Although your workload will get increasingly greater, nothing will come as a surprise. Nothing at university sneaks up on you unless you let it! Be prepared and organized, and you’ll be just fine.

Understand how your credits work

Some courses allow you to pick up credits all throughout the year, through both minor and major tasks. Others, however, are brutally compressed, with credits given only twice a year (your mid-term and end-of-year exams). Trust all who have come before you: make sure you bag as many credits as you can at the beginning of the year, show up to every lecture, and do your utmost to study and perform well in every single test and assignment. By the year’s end, even just half a percentage credit can make all the difference.

western international school of shanghai-
western international school of shanghai-

Dorm life will be an experience all its own

Moving out of the comfort of your family home and into a dorm is undoubtedly the biggest ‘physical’difference between school and university. What this will be like for you, personally, only time will tell yet know that this is the first proper step towards adulting. For some, it’ll be the very best thing about university and, for others, it’ll simply be an amazing learning curve. Dorm living throws everything to the surface: how organized you are, how well you compromise, how considerate you are, and how you cope with others who are neither. Love it or hate it, it will be an invaluable part of university life!

You get to reinvent yourself

University life is the one big chance you have to reinvent yourself and create a brand-new social life, one that might be filled with totally different people than you’re otherwise used to. This chance to start afresh is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about who you are and what you like.

western international school of shanghai
western international school of shanghai

You will be exposed to an amazing array of people

University communities can be some of the most heterogeneous groups out there, so you’ll have the chance to be exposed to a drastically different variety of people. Hopefully, your university will have plenty of overseas students, making the mix even more eclectic.