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How are college classes different from high school?

Taking college courses while you’re still in high school has many benefits. You get a jump start on college credits, you save money and you can explore programs of study that interest you. However, there are some significant differences between college and high school classes. Being aware of these differences can help you succeed in college!


On the first day of class (and online in Canvas three days before that), you’ll receive a syllabus which lays out course content, deadlines, grading and attendance policies. Compare the course requirements to your calendar and other obligations to make sure you can complete the course! If not, you have just a few days to drop the course without a negative impact.

Communication is Key

Your professors want to hear from you! Establish a good relationship with them early in the term. Ask questions, visit during office hours and email them often (office hours and email are in the syllabus). Instructors won’t contact you about missing work, poor grades or absences. It’s up to you to contact them before you miss a class or assignment, when an emergency arises or if you need help. Remember to use your AACC email or Canvas to message professors, since they can’t use your personal email.

Deadlines are Firm

Missing a test or assignment usually results in a grade of zero. Check the syllabus for your professor’s late policy. If you plan to ask your professor for an extension, do so before the due date. 

No Good Faith Effort or Redo's

Although common in high school, minimum grades for good faith effort, redo’s and test corrections aren’t offered in college. Work hard so you can earn the grade you want! 


In college, absences aren’t classified as “excused” or not. Absences for any reason can affect your grade. Consult your syllabus for your professor’s attendance policy. 

College Calendar

AACC’s calendar is different from your high school calendar for holidays, snow days and term start/end dates. It’s important to check both calendars!

College Coursework Requires More Study Time

Successful students will spend more time outside of class studying and doing coursework than they spend in class (for both in-person and online classes). Plan for six to nine hours of outside time per week for each class. 


Your final grade in a college course will be based largely on exams, papers and projects. Exams are usually less frequent and cover more material than you are used to. Completing homework, studying the textbook, reviewing text/class notes and using study tools such as flashcards are critical for test preparation! 

Course Grades and Transcript

Your college classes and the grades you earn remain on your transcript forever. College grades can have positive or negative impacts on admission to four-year colleges, future financial aid, scholarships, employment and other opportunities. Put in the work, earn good grades and take care of your transcript!


If you’re struggling in a course, reach out to your advisor and/or instructor to discuss your options. They can help you get the extra support you need or may recommend withdrawing. If you withdraw before the deadline, you’ll receive a grade of W, which can protect your GPA and transcript from a failing grade.

Student Support

AACC supports its students with resources like tutoring, the Writing Center, time management workshops and personal counseling – all at no cost to you! Visit our Resources for Students page to learn more.