Why is college the way it is? 

The transition from college to high school can be very large. In some situations the way high schools were set up could be beneficial. Read more to find out about the pros and cons of each system. Illustration by Anna Iorfino/The Daily Campus

One of the biggest differences between high school and college is the amount of built-in structure that each student has. In high school, this amount is significant. Students go to school each day for a designated time, attendance is taken and there are clear consequences for missing classes. College, on the other hand, lacks much of this routine. Class times can vary, it is easier to have attendance issues without clear ramifications and the support system students have is significantly less. While both structures have their positive and negative attributes, I feel that high school gives students a structure that is more conducive to a healthy lifestyle and more closely aligned with the real world. 

The loose structure of college life does have its benefits; for example, students are forced to be self-motivated, learn time management and acquire self-reliance overall. This undoubtedly helps to build independence and other vital skills that will be necessary for the rest of their lives. 

That being said, high school structures have a lot of benefits. The main benefit is the social structure. The number of students is limited, people see each other daily and in my experience class sizes are less likely to be as large. While my high school may be different than others, especially with disparities in school sizes, funding etc., I feel that high school classes are more interactive, less lecture-based and better suited to fostering friendships between classmates. Repeatedly seeing the same people, increases in student-teacher interactions and the continuity of the class a student is grouped with helped me to become closer to people and build a solid support system. This was a positive aspect of my high school experience, and I think that the college academic structure is less suited to building this. Colleges certainly have other social factors that help people build a personal support system, but they are less intertwined with academics than in high school. 

Another benefit of the high school structure is the expectation of attendance. It is significantly easier to skip a college class than a high school one. There are more institutional consequences due to attendance policies, and the social expectations put in place by peers and parents also help. In college, you could skip a class that no one even realizes you’re missing. Missing class hurts academic performance and detracts from a collegiate experience.  

Both of these benefits show that the more structured experience that high schools provide can have positive effects on students’ livelihoods. However, the arguments also have the gaping hole that students don’t get to build independence or learn how to create this structure, discipline and motivation independently. To this, I would say that students build these skills within the high school’s structure to succeed. Students have to complete a significant amount of work outside of class and are often involved in extracurricular activities; with all of this going on, having a solid class structure is a huge benefit. College obviously becomes more flexible and pushes students to be even more independent, but the real world doesn’t require students to need these skills as much as college does.  

There are clear consequences for attendance issues in a professional work environment. For many jobs, you have to show up every day at the same time, and this is a set-in-stone part of your daily life. On the other hand, classes change every few months and often can be skipped and caught up on later. This forces students to create unnecessary discipline and blurs the school and personal life boundaries. On top of this, working with the same people every single day is conducive to closer friendships and a better support system that people can develop at their job. College is not like that, as classes are often two to three times a week, and not many are lecture-based nor conducive to creating close interpersonal connections. This can be done outside of class, but that is based on people’s proactive social behavior, not the structure of college education. 

College pushes students to reach a level of independence they’re unprepared for and takes away many previously-enjoyed support structures. 

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