High School vs. College Expectations

North alumni speak to the differences between North and college


Cheyann Neades, North graduate of 2017, is now at Drake majoring in magazine media. Photo Courtesy: Cheyann Neades

Cristobal Oviedo Carranza, Reporter

Cheyann Neades is a 2017 North graduate who attends Drake University and is on her third year of college majoring in magazine media and minoring in anthropology. She wants to find a career in the journalism industry to continue telling stories through different forms of media.

What is your opinion or experience with the expectations of high school vs college regarding the following topics?

1) Class Time Use: In high school, class time usage changed day by day, but there was definitely more of an expectation that there’s class time to work on things. In college, there is usually a syllabus that lays out the semester with policies for the class, grading policies, and what each class meeting will be and what those classes will cover. There is an expectation to show up to classes since you’re paying for them and need to learn the content in order to succeed in the course.

2) Time Management: In high school and college, I have definitely had to balance busy schedules since I have been super involved in activities and my classes for the past seven years. It definitely has been easier in college for me since I have been a lot better at prioritizing and have a lot more time to work on things in between classes since my schedule does not force me to be in school from 7:30am-3pm as it was in high school. Along with that, in college I have been a lot more focused on my personal well-being and not being so hard on myself when it comes to productivity and being heavily involved. Being realistic with my expectations for myself has allowed me to be more practical with how I manage my schedule. In college your schedule is truly up to you. While there’s a lot to manageable, it can all be figured out somehow and in some way.

3) Homework/Studying: I definitely had a lot less homework in high school compared to college. In high school, the classes I had the most homework and studying to do were in my AP classes. In college, every class will have outside class work to do. I mainly have had a lot of projects and readings rather than loads of tests. I expect myself to study and do my homework on time because school is expensive, and I want to learn as much as possible during my four-years here. It is expected that in both high school and college that you do your homework and prepare for tests, but with college there is a bit more pressure and stricter deadlines, but professors expect you to be on top of your work and schedule yourself, rather than adding that to their personal priorities.

4) Responsibilities: In high school, my responsibilities mainly involved classes, activities, work, and my social life. In college, I have those same responsibilities plus bills and upkeeping my living space(s). In high school I was expected to be a good student and graduate, and that’s basically the same expectation, with just a lot more added into that 4-year process.

5) Social Life: This has also been a similar experience for me, expect in college you make friends EVERYWHERE. Whether it’s from struggling in a class along with the student sitting next to you, being involved in an organization together, or grabbing lunch with someone in your dorm hall, the connections are endless. Since I go to a small, private university, the social environment still feels and acts a lot similar to how high school did but involving a lot more coffee study dates than anything. In college, everyone feels like they’re in the same boat in terms of being super busy and trying to thrive with a lot of work and responsibilities, but weekends are a great time to relax and enjoy time with friends and whoever else you want to spend time with.

6) General Expectations: Throughout my experiences, I have felt that my general experiences in high school were to work hard, graduate, and eventually figure out my life after that, which ended up being college. At a four-year university, my expectation has truly been to work hard, graduate, find my passions, and constantly work on bettering those passions that bring me joy and to also work on bettering myself during these years. These four-years in college are difficult at times, but I know my work and all that I’m learning in/outside of my classes and about myself are definitely worth it.

7) Testing: In high school, there is a lot more in-class review. In college, it is more independent studying and preparation for tests. Different professors allow review session or even cheat sheets to use during the exam. The setup of multiple-choice questions and short/answers questions in high school has been similar in my college exams. In college, the exams tend to cover more material than they would have in high school. This all depends on the professor and the classes being taken.

8) Assistance from Teacher/Professors: Like I said before, I attend a small, private university. My class sizes are much smaller than at other schools. I had a major specific class this semester that had 8 people, and a lecture class with about 35 people, and this has definitely been helpful in my experience since there is more one-on-one learning with peers and professors. In high school, I had a similar experience. The only difference is that in high school, teachers are more available face-to-face before and after school hours, while professors are very active on their emails and have specific office hours in which students can attend (which are also listed on syllabi). Professors and teachers really do care about their students’ success and learning in their classes. It has definitely been made clear to me in my experiences in both high school and college that talking to your teachers/professors and building healthy relationships with them is a great way to network and learn.

9) Expenses: In high school my main expenses were lunch and anything I wanted to buy myself such as clothes and technology. In college its food, laundry, tuition, bills, and anything such as clothes or miscellaneous things I want if I am able to afford them. There is a lot more budgeting that goes into college, as well as applying for scholarships, which I’ve done every year to help pay for school tuition, books, and other class materials.

Other Questions:

10) Advice to North Student venturing into college: It doesn’t all have to be figured out right away. Be patient and know that every part of the process, whether good or bad, is contributing to you and your life in some way. There’s a lot to learn, so stay open-minded and know that things will always work out.

11) Job/Internship: I currently am employed at Meredith Corporation working for Midwest Living Magazine and Meredith Travel Marketing. I have been here since May of this year and have learned so much. This job is the third internship I’ve had while in college and this semester is the first time I’ve only had one job outside of school, past semesters I have been working 2 or 3 jobs while being full-time in school.


Mya Alexander played soccer for the Iowa Central Community College women’s team during her first year of college. She is a graduate of the class of 2018 at North. Photo Courtesy: Mya Alexander

Mya Alexander is a 2018 North graduate who attended Iowa Central Community College and currently attends DMACC in Des Moines. She is on her second year of college and wants to become a first grade teacher.

What is your opinion or experience with the expectations of high school vs college regarding the following topics?

1) Class time use: In high school there were plenty of opportunities to complete the assigned assignment in class with no rush and not many frequent lectures. College was way different, time was not given for homework or really anything outside of the lecture for the day.

2) Time management: if there’s anything that college teaches you at 8am or 11 at night it’s how to manage your time well to get the max amount of sleep. In college there are no do overs or test retakes that allow you to be lazy and procrastinate your problems away.

3) Homework/studying: in my opinion the homework load wasn’t too much different than college since I was taking college readiness classes.

4) Responsibilities: Everything you do is up to you. Which sounds fun until you’re too sick to go to class and mom can’t call you in to school anymore. However it is a great learning point as far as making your own appointments, having to talk to multiple teachers and professors, and anything else that was usually already done for us. High school prepared us for test taking schools but I honestly knew nothing about an I-9 or how to pay my copay at the hospital.

5) Social life: the “college experience” was more real for me since my parents were strict but I absolutely loved in. There are so many opportunities to get involved and a club for everyone. Everyone was also super inviting and nice.

6) General college expectations vs general high school expectations: the major difference in college is being personally responsible for yourself. In high school we could use just about anything for an excuse but in college they generally don’t care who ate your homework, they only care that it wasn’t turned in on time. It was hard to adjust to but wasn’t all that bad at the end.

7) Testing: the main difference about testing from high school is that you can’t redo everything and that it is a one time test. 

8) Assistance from teachers/professors: since I went to a community college my professors were more approachable and available but I do know that it’s different at 4 years. 

9) Expenses: college is more expensive then you think. I think my bank account was so low my bank almost cut it off.

Other questions:

10) What is your best piece of advice for North students venturing to college? Be open to change. There is a lot of things to experience if you go out there with knowledge and an open mind.

11) Do you have a job/internship? Full time at Clive Children’s Center, part time at Aspen Athletics Club, and part time schooling


Rachael Nash, 2015 graduate of North, is seen with Roosterteeth employees, an animation company, during an event called Hall of Fame Week at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. Photo Courtesy: Rachael Nash

Rachael Nash is a 2015 North graduate and currently attends Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida, majoring in game art. Before moving to Orlando, Nash attended three years at DMACC in Des Moines. She aspires to be a game art designer for the environment/maps, props, characters and animations you see in video games.

Preface: I’m going to preface this by saying I go to Full Sail University, which is an accelerated college for entertainment. I have a new class every four weeks and go all year round in Orlando, Florida. I went to DMACC for about three years then came to Orlando, so I have a mixed experience. Most of my answers are based on DMACC though.

What is your opinion or experience with the expectations of high school vs college regarding the following topics?

1) Class Time Use: I remember in high school a lot of our class time was a mixture of “lecture” and work time. That’s how it is at Full Sail but at DMACC and your typical college a lot of the time you’re going to be lectured. I also have to take a lot more notes in class than I did in high school. Even with art I took a lot of notes.

2) Time Management: I was a horrible student in high school and either did my homework in class, or didn’t do it, so I never did any homework at home. I didn’t get any time management skills either, meaning I’m having a lot of issues in college with procrastination! You absolutely need to have good time management in college. The workload is so much bigger, and its higher stakes to get it turned in on time. Especially in majors and industries that rely heavily on deadlines.

3) Homework/Studying: I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH! READ YOUR MATERIALS AND STUDY!!! Find a way to study that works for you because if you don’t study you won’t do as good on the tests or in class. There’s a lot more homework, and a lot more to study. The homework is also worth more and you won’t have your parents to bail you out in college like my mom did. It’s all on you, and you get what you put in. You’ll also have a lot of essays and papers at a typical university. Even at my art school I wrote a few papers.

4) Responsibilities: I never knew in high school how much it took to be an adult. Back then my biggest worry was swimming and play production. Other than that, I had my typical chores at home. Now I have to juggle bills, rent, groceries, school, my job, personal art projects, my mental health, physical health, and family. My mom commented recently that after moving out to college I’ve grown a lot more mature and responsible. You need to learn how to budget and plan for everything.

5) Social Life: So… I moved to Orlando all alone and have almost no social life other than my roommate and talking to my friends from DMACC and from Des Moines. I heard it’s a lot easier to make friends when you’re living in a dorm, but Full Sail doesn’t have housing, so I live in apartment near campus. I will say the friends you make in college and your degree program might be the difference between you getting a job or not because networking is a major part of most jobs these days. Especially if you want to get into entertainment, music, or games.

6) General college expectations vs general high school expectations: I’m not going to sugar coat this, but I was expecting a lot less. I remember my freshman year at DMACC I failed 2 classes because I was NOT expecting how much they pile on. When I went to Full Sail it got worse since they condense a whole semesters worth of work in 1 month. I failed 3 classes at Full Sail when I started it, and just failed another recently because I got overwhelmed. It’s great though to have more freedom and independence.

7) Testing: Testing is a lot like high school, but more intense. I don’t have tests at Full Sail, just 20 art projects due in a week. But at DMACC my finals were actual Hell. You need to study. Don’t cram. Study.

8) Assistance from teachers/professors: My mom was great and would talk to my teachers for me when I got behind in class because I have major anxiety and don’t know how to ask for help. In college that’s illegal! You need to communicate with your professors and teachers. They will normally understand. I can count on one hand professors and teachers that refused to help me when I asked. And I never took the classes with those instructors/professors again. Major word of advice is use www.ratemyprofessors.com. College professors are also a lot more laid back I’ve noticed. One professor I had in a psychology class was the embodiment of chaotic energy, she would be 10 minutes late every day to class and then forgot to make a quiz for us, so she just passed us all. It was so crazy.

9) Expenses: I had so much money in high school from working a part time job that paid $9.00 and hour. I think currently I have about $30 in my bank account and Spotify is about to come through. My mom is helping me a lot, and my dad gave me a few months of his GI Bill (college military assistance that my dad got for serving in the war or Iraq, he didn’t go to college so my sister and I got it). The GI bill pays for my rent and utilities, my mom pays for groceries, and my cats vet bills. I pay for everything else, like any entertainment stuff. Full Sail also doesn’t have text books, but when I was at DMACC I had to take out loans for textbooks alone. The most expensive textbook I’ve had was about $300 that I had to buy new and couldn’t sell again because it had an access code. Another expense that’s creeping up on me is my loans. Full Sail’s tuition is $83,500 for the whole program, and after 3 years at DMACC and when I finish my program at Full Sail, I believe if I pay $300 a month for 15 years I’ll be debt free. I also just became “independent” so FASFA is giving me a lot more financial aid than I would have with my mom. Math is hard.

Other questions:
10) What is your best piece of advice for North students venturing to college? 1.Don’t take 9 AM classes. No, it’s not like high school; yes, you will skip that class to sleep. 2. Become best friends with your adviser, and 3. TALK TO YOUR PROFESSORS WHEN YOU FALL BEHIND!!!! They’re here to help!!!

11) Plans for after college: I am hoping to apply for an internship at PlayStation or Epic Games (Since they offer paid internships) as a game artist/prop builder/character artist. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll probably start applying to smaller companies to get experience with video games. My school also has their own game company that operates on campus so I might apply there as well after I graduate.

12) Do you have a job/internship? I work with the school under work study in the graduation and orientation department. They aren’t paying me much though, so I was going to probably apply for Disney World after the winter break.


Harry Nguyen (right), North graduate of 2016, volunteers after presenting at the ISU 4U Promise mini-conference with friend, Jasani Whitehead. Photo Courtesy: Harry Nguyen

Harry Nguyen is a 2017 North graduate and now attends Iowa State University as a junior, majoring in business management and minoring in sociology. Nguyen wants to travel, work in corporate human resources, and eventually own a business.

What is your opinion or experience with the expectations of high school vs college regarding the following topics?

1) Class time use: Class time in college is very different from high school. In high school, you take the time to do learning activities and engage with your teacher because it is their job to make sure that the youth are educated and successful. But in college, professors are not necessarily educators. They are academic experts in their subject, therefore, I feel that class time is used as an opportunity to learn from someone who knows more about their field hence the idea of “lectures”. So in other words, most college class times used are to lecture material and concepts and then the studying part will have to be done on your own time.

2) Time management: Time management is equally important in high school and in college. I would say practice time management skills now because it will matter most later on if you decide to go into higher education. You get to pick your own schedule, for example, I picked my class time to be from 8am to 11am. After that, the time is mine to manage how I want. As a high school student, you might believe that this is free time but if you have time management skills, you will look at this time as time to allocate in order effectively to accomplish your goals.

3) Homework/studying: From my experience, there was not a whole lot of homework assigned in high school. This is because most of the studying and learning was done in class, and everything you do in class helps lead you up to the tests/quizzes. In college, all of your studying and learning is mostly done outside of class. The concepts and materials are much more advanced and are given to rapidly. So in reality, you go to class to know what to study for and the homework that is given to you is one of the supplements for learning.

4) Responsibilities: In high school, my responsibilities were similar to what they are now as a student. That is to go to class, get involved, and be an active student. What’s only different in college is that you become a young adult. This means that you start to be in charge of yourself. You are responsible if you decide to go to class or not and the consequences are to be dealt with only yourself. You are in charge about whether you want to get involved or not because that is your future. You are also in charge of financial responsibilities that come with college as well. Don’t let this scare you though because I feel that college is a good way to learn about self-accountability and how to be an adult.

5) Social life: I think that in both places, high school and college, social life is what you make of it. You can choose to have little of it or a lot of it. It comes down to time management skills and self-care practice to have a healthy social life. In college, there are so many opportunities to meet new people and try new things, so it is important to make time for those experiences. Yes, hitting the books are important but I went to college for the experience, so I had to make it worthwhile by making time for a social life.

6) General college expectations vs general high school expectations: In high school, the expectations are set for you. In college, you set your own expectations for yourself. I’ll go back to the topic of accountability because the culture at college is that you should know or at least understand what professionalism is. If you miss an assignment then, that was a mistake you need to learn from because you won’t be able to turn it in later on like you can in high school. You won’t have teachers are counselors looking over your shoulder so be ready to become independent.

7) Testing: Testing in high school classes seemed to be more about whether you understand the concepts or not. Most of the time, the tests are based on a smaller pool of concepts. In college, the tests are referred to as exams and I feel that those are about whether you know the concepts or not. There aren’t redos for college exams so it’s all or nothing, that’s why studying is an actual thing of reality when you get to college,

8) Assistance from teachers/professors: Teachers can see whether or not you are struggling in class and will tend to reach out to help you. But for college, you have to know when you are struggling and when you need to reach out for help yourself. The stigma about professors is that they don’t care about you or your grades. It is true to an extent because the expectation is that it’s your responsibility to take charge of your own education. Professors are willing to help you if you reach out to them.

9) Expenses: Learn how to budget and figure out your spending habits. The term “broke college student” is very real. During this time, you are away from your parents so you might not have the same financial support as you would living with them. But even if you are going to college in your hometown, expenses will come up left and right. The biggest thing will obviously be your school expenses. Not only tuition, but you’ll have to start buying textbooks for classes, technology fees, health and gym facility fees. If you’re living away from home, that’ll be rent, room & board, the list can go on. But to be smart about money management. I would advise you to look for and apply to as many scholarships. This was something I slacked on and did not realize there is so much money out there for you to use for school if you just applied.

Other questions:

10) What is your best piece of advice for North students venturing to college? For students who are venturing to college, be ready to become uncomfortable. Putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is a recipe for growth and success. It’s generic but I preach it because it’s true. Also don’t stress and worry about not knowing what area to study and what you want out of a career. If you do, great! If you don’t, great! When you venture onto college, it is a place where you will learn more about yourself than you will ever have. It is a journey and the answer will come. You might get involved with a club where you will find your passion or you’ll take a class where it turns out to be an interesting subject. The beauty is in the journey, so venture onto college to enjoy the journey and the experience.

11) do you have a job/internship? I currently work for the Iowa State University employee and labor relations department of human resources.