The major differences between high school classes and university lectures

Katrina Villeneuve


Beginning your journey to post-secondary education is a new and exciting adventure. But the differences between high school and university may leave you wondering how well you will adjust to university life. 

Don’t freak out! Different and new doesn't have to mean scary and super difficult. University classes take a bit of getting used to and knowing what to expect can help with that transition. 

Check out this blog post to get a heads up on the next chapter of your education! 

Class size

Before we get into some crucial differences, you will probably experience this change on your very first day. In high school, we typically had the same classes every day with the same thirty or so people and most likely knew everyone in our class.

When you attend your first lecture, this will definitely not be the case. Whether it be online or in-class, the main difference you'll notice will be the 200 other students there with you. First-year classes are usually the largest in size, having roughly 100 to 250 students. Chances are most of these faces will be complete strangers—for now!

But don’t be nervous! Remember that your peers probably feel the same way you do. Grab a seat! After a few weeks, everyone will fall into a routine of where they like to sit.

Dog as a teacher, pointing to a chalk board in lecture full of students                                         Via Giphy

Length of class

Being in my fourth year, I had to ponder for a minute on just how short high school classes were. Around an hour if I recall correctly, now I look back and wonder how we ever got anything done.

The average university lecture is three hours but don’t fret, you adjust to it really fast. I remember my first lectures seeming a little lengthy, but once you get used to them you'll find that those hours fly by.

Not every class will be this long either, tutorials and labs are much shorter. You may also find that some classes don’t last the entire three hours anyway—that’s a lot of talking for the professor.

Boss Baby saying "Power nap! You were saying?"

                                  Via Giphy


In high school, you likely had tests every week or so covering only a chapter or two of material, and were probably worth very little of your grade; this is a major difference compared to university.

The normal design of university classes consists of a midterm, final exam and some kind of project or assignment. The weight of these will change depending on the class, but each usually makes up around 30 per cent of your grade.

For some, this may seem like a terrible idea because it puts a lot of pressure on you to do very well on every task. That's true, but it's important to remember that every test or assignment is part of a larger grade and you will have other opportunities to succeed. 

Once you get used to how exams and assignments are conducted, you'll usually find a flow that allows you to keep up and do well. Your professor will likely say this a hundred times, but make sure to constantly check Canvas for course syllabi and other updates.

Squidward kissing stack of papers

                                     Via Giphy

Class schedule

You will notice the difference in your academic schedule during the summer when you design it using the class preview. Leaving high school, you will likely be well adjusted to the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday schedule.

You also likely had the same classes every day of the week. In university, most classes run on a specific day of the week as opposed to every day—that’s why they're much longer.

Also, you won’t necessarily have classes at the same times every day. One day you could have class at 8 a.m. and the next day have classes back to back starting at 2 p.m. If you get lucky you might even have a day off, for studying of course (wink wink).

Bart simpson throws book on fire saying "Hooray! No school tomorrow!"

                                     Via Giphy

University is a big change and can seem daunting for some but don’t let it overwhelm you, it just takes some getting used to. If you want to learn more about university life, check out some of the resources available through Student Life.

Got info to add or questions of your own? Check out the comment section below!

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