College is Not High School

by | Mar 17, 2016 | College Search, Our Blog | 0 comments

I recently came across this GREAT article on the differences between high school and college. It was written by Lauren Felter of LSU and I thought it was important to share the information with both our parent and student  readers. 

Parent Info: 7 Ways College is Different Than High School


The transition from high school to college has a learning curve for students and their entire support system–parents, grandparents, guardians, etc. It’s important to remain patient and keep an open mind when adjusting to this new environment.

1. Access to Academic Information

When your student was in high school, you could easily access their grades, progress reports, absentee record, and much more. Due to FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), you will no longer be able to access your student’s educational record without their express written consent on file with the Registrar’s Office. This means you won’t receive a progress report or final grades, so it’s important to keep an open relationship with your student to check on their academic progress.

2. Handling Issues That Arise

In high school the main office was a one-stop-shop. You could call one phone number to handle an issue regarding your student or get questions answered. In college many services are executed by different offices, so it’s important to know which to contact for different inquiries. The best thing to do is give your student the office to contact and let them do the rest. It’s important to allow your student to handle issues on their own, as it gives them experience for the real world and develops responsibility and accountability.

3. Test & Assignment Leniency

In high school it was commonplace to make up a test or assignment following an excused absence. This is not always the case in college. At the beginning of each semester, professors or instructors will provide a syllabus that outlines all assignments and exams for the entire semester. Students are expected to be present for each exam and turn in each assignment on time. In some cases, professors will work with students who have extenuating circumstances, but for the most part, a missed exam or assignment equals a grade of zero.

4. Announcements & Campus Communication

In high school information was disbursed to parents and students equally, and you were always in-the-know about events and policies. College communicates directly to students most of the time. This means that important announcements about when fee bills are due, when it is time to schedule, and when a form or document needs to be turned in will go directly to your student. It is important that they check their email daily (or hourly!) so they don’t miss any due dates or deadlines.

5. Resolving Student Conflict

When two students had a conflict in high school, it was not uncommon for the parents to get involved and talk amongst themselves to handle the dispute. While this could still happen in college, it’s not safe to assume that all parents are as involved. For the most part, students should get used to handling conflicts with other students on their own without parent intervention. This will prepare them to handle workplace conflict successfully and to work with all types of personalities.

6. Establishing an Academic Plan

In high school you were heavily involved in deciding your student’s schedule and classes each year. Now it’s your student’s turn to take the reigns! Each semester, they should consult with a counselor before scheduling to ensure they are on track to graduate on time. Your student should also view their degree audit regularly to ensure they are actively fulfilling graduation requirements.

Remember: Because of FERPA, you will not be able to do this for your student. They must take control of their academic plan on their own.

7. Maintaining a Schedule

In high school you were the clock and calendar keeper. You told your student when to wake up, when to go to bed, when to leave for school, and what day to go to swim practice. Now it’s your student’s turn to manage their own schedule. No matter the method–planner, calendar, or phone reminders–they should be responsible enough to know when they need to wake up, study, go to class, go to work, and socialize.


So what does this mean to you as a parent of a college-bound teen? Janice and I have been privileged that our two children (Brittany and Philip) have allowed us access to their academic and medical records throughout their college experiences.

Janice suggests that you start discussing the points in this article once your teen has decided on a college. Take the article and work through each point, substituting your teen’s college for the references in the LSU article. Ask your teen for their thoughts on providing you with access to certain personal and academic information. Respect their choices but explain that, especially when it comes to medical records, if there were a true emergency it would be helpful for you to be able to view their records and speak to medical authorities. 

Things change during the college years; understanding your rights from a legal, school and personal perspective will not only make the transition smoother for you and teen, it will hopefully help future conversation.


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