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 the differences between professors and teachers.

Transitioning from high school to university can be a big change; a large part of this is how your classes are run. Professors in university are much different from teachers in high school, keep reading to find out how!

1. They don't monitor you 

High school involves attendance and monitoring, but not at 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 them in your professor is not going to notice (and potentially won't allow you to after the due date). They will not remind you personally if your assignment is overdue, so it's really up to you to stay on top of things.

gif of professor saying "Bueller?"

This may sound scary, but don't worry! With a little bit of planning and time management, you will find a flow that works for you—make sure you're checking Canvas often for your course syllabi, deadlines and updates. 

But don't confuse your professors not hassling you for assignments with them not caring. They do want to see you succeed and will offer their help, they just don't have time to chase every one of their students—in first-year classes they can have up to 200 students.

2. You can work with them

gif of Big Bang Theory Sheldon and Amy awkwardly going for a handshake and high five

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.

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 supervising my undergraduate thesis and I was able to go to her for some advice on applying to graduate school. Having your professors know you personally really helps with your personal and academic development.

3. They can be available to you a lot more

Kim Kardashian meme

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 to say hi. Most professors are also willing to meet with you outside of their office hours if needed.

Again, they will not chase you to provide their 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. Talking to them is not as scary as you think!

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. Doing so allows you to see where you've gone wrong and where you can improve for next time!

4. The way they teach 

What I will say is that the format of your classes will be very different from high school. Your professors will give a lecture (anywhere from an hour to three hours long) and you will take notes. They typically go at a faster pace than your high school teachers, but you can always ask them to go back and repeat something!

Gif of Professor Snape saying "Turn to page 394"

There may also be readings for you to keep up with outside of class time that are testable. This may seem daunting, but you get to set your own schedule and manage your time how you see fit.

5. They can be less formal

How I Met Your Mother GIF righting "Professor" on the chalk board

The keyword here is can. You should 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 from high school teachers? Let me know in the comments below.

Want to learn more about the programs the professors at our university instruct? 

Check out our viewbook

Connect with us on social media!


Recent posts

Subscribe to Email Updates