The difference between university professors and high school teachers

Erin Campbell


Hey everyone, and welcome back to Student Speak! Today I want to talk to you about professors and teachers. What's the difference? Transitioning from high school to university can be a big change and a big part of this is the way your classes are run. Professors in university are much different than teachers in high school. Keep reading to find out how!


They don't monitor you 


High school involves attendance and monitoring, but not university. In high school you do the homework your teachers assign you, they check to see if you've done it and they'll bug you to turn it in if it's late.

In university, it's really up to you to complete your assignments and papers on time and if you don't hand it in your professor is not going to notice. They will not remind you personally if your assignment is overdue, so it's really up to you to stay on top of things.

This sounds scary but it just takes a little bit of responsibility and it's nice that you get to manage your own time in university and set your own schedule!

Also, don't confuse your professors not hassling you for assignments with them not caring. They still want to see you succeed and want to help, they just don't have time to chase every one of their students.


You can work with them

Big Bang Theory

High school teachers are there for you strictly in a teaching sense, but professors are always looking for students to work with and help out in their labs. So you can get some really valuable experience working alongside your professors in their research.

You can always email them and ask what volunteer opportunities there are! I helped out in one of my professor's labs in a Directed Laboratory Research class. Now she is also supervising my undergraduate thesis and I was able to go to her for some advice on applying to graduate school. Having my professors know me really helps with my personal and academic development.


They can be available to you a lot more

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University professors can be available to you as a resource a lot more than your high school teachers.

Outside of your lecture times, professors will have office hours where you can drop into their office and get help with whatever you need or just say hi. Most professors are also willing to meet with you during times outside of their office hours if you need.

Again, they will not chase you to provide help but if you need some clarification on lecture material or if you want to talk about their field of research, professors are happy to help and lend themselves to you outside of class time.

If I can give you one piece of advice from this whole blog, it's go to your professor's office hours to view your midterms after you've written them so you can see where you've gone wrong and learn for next time!


The way they teach 

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What I will say is that the format of your classes will be very different from high school. Your professors will lecture and you will take notes. There may be readings for you to keep up with as well outside of class time that are testable. This may seem daunting but you really get to set your own schedule and manage your time how you see fit!


They can be less formal

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The key word here is can. You should still always address your professors professionally and with their doctor prefix unless they say otherwise.

You will have professors that expect formality all the time. That being said, you'll find a lot of professors will tell you to call them by their first names, and they'll be pretty laid back. In high school, you always call your teachers miss or mister but in university a lot of the time you'll be talking about what your professor "Josh" is teaching this week.  

You can develop great mentorships and working relationships with your professors if you utilize them correctly! Don't be scared to talk to them and network, they want you to succeed. 

Did I miss any key ways that university professors are different than high school teachers? Let me know in the comments!

Want to learn more about the programs the professors at our university instruct? Download our viewbook to get a better understanding.

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