High school and college are two very different student experiences.

That’s probably not new information to you. However, even when you’re expecting major differences, the college transition can have some surprises. Here, students and recent grads share what shocked them when they first arrived on campus. Of course, many of these differences are specific to the high school and college experiences of these students and may not apply to all college transitions, but they can give you a sense of what to expect in the fall.

1. You Don’t Get to Know Your Professors

While you can create meaningful relationships with your college professors, it may take a bit more work than it did in high school. Peter Slater, a Barry University grad, says that he was used to seeing his high school teachers every day. “In college, you only see [your professors] once or twice a week when you have class. If you want to talk to a professor outside of class, you have to schedule a meeting during specific hours they’re around. It’s not like high school where you can just find them to talk whenever [you need to].”

2. It’s So Casual

For Gabby Camilleri, a student at Texas A&M University, her big shock came when she realized that not many students wore makeup or dressed up for class. “Picking out outfits and putting on makeup in high school was a ritual. Once I started college, it was a shock that everyone just wore T-shirts with their hair in a bun.” However, Camilleri actually took to the new dress code. “Now, halfway through college, I rarely touch my makeup bag and my whole wardrobe is just tees,” she says.

3. There’s Not as Much Homework

Workload can vary from school to school — and even class to class. There may be some classes where you have work to take home at the end of every day, but that wasn’t the case with Caitlin Moynihan when she was a student at Towson University. “Most professors don’t give homework after each class,” she says. “In fact, some classes only give a few assignments during the semester.” Of course, less homework doesn’t necessarily mean less work overall as there may be longer project assignments and more heavily weighted exams. Professors will also expect that you learn the material and review it outside of class even if there isn’t a formal assignment in the syllabus. 

4. You Can Eat in Class

Ben Gambella was surprised that classroom rules were so different between his high school and SUNY Maritime College. “College students will sometimes bring an entire meal to class, like a full lunch or dinner, and it’s no big deal,” he reports. “In high school, you usually aren’t even allowed to eat a small snack during class.”

5. Extracurriculars Aren’t as Popular

“Throughout high school, you’re encouraged to take a lot of extracurricular activities. In college, the pressure to do that is almost nonexistent,” says Deana Mariana, a student at Penn State. While there may not be as much pressure to do extracurriculars, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Many students get involved with clubs, sports, intramurals and other activities. However, there is generally a sense in college that academics and your future career are your main focus.

6. Attendance Isn’t Always Required

“I thought it was weird that attendance is very rarely mandatory,” said Christopher Dundon, a student at Stony Brook University. While it is the case at many schools that the students self-motivate and act as their own attendance-takers, there are classes where attendance is taken and can count toward your grade. Dundon also reported that in some classes where no one took attendance, there are pop quizzes that factor into the final grade. If you’re not present, you get a zero. And of course going to class and creating an in-person relationship with your professor can help your grade and understanding of the material. Bottom line: Going to class is a good idea, even if no one’s checking.

7. I Didn’t Like College Food

Olivia Halvey says her biggest shock was the dining hall selection at Saint Michael’s College. “Growing up, I had the luxury of having a mom who cooked all of my meals every day, so when I got to college, the cafeteria food definitely didn’t meet my standards,” she says. While no dining hall could ever compare to home-cooked food, many cafeterias do have healthful options. If needed, you can always check out your local grocery store to fulfill any cravings your dining hall isn’t meeting.

8. Laundry’s Hard

Laundry was the shocker for Lauren Zisman when she got to the University of Albany. “You always have to wait in line to get a machine, and then you have to sort and fold in front of everyone, like people you don’t know. Then you have to sit around and wait for it to finish, unless you want someone to dump your clothes everywhere,” she says. Unless you live in an off-campus apartment, the laundry situation will most likely be shared. Going at off-peak hours can help combat the long wait times, and bringing your clothes back to your room to fold may offer some privacy.

9. There Are So Many Decisions

“For me, I think it was all the choices you get in college,” Peter Herzog, a George Washington University student, says. “In high school, everyone just throws things at you. Yeah, you can pick a few of your classes, but it’s not until college that you really get to have more of a say in the direction you want your life to go.” College choices can be surprisingly overwhelming at first, but making your own decisions is a big part of becoming an adult and college is a great place to start.