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English in College vs. High School

How is learning English in college different from learning English in high school?

Class Time

English classes in college meet for fewer days per week, cover the same or more material in less than half the time, and require significant time outside of class to master the material.

High School College
Language arts classes usually meet every weekday. College level English classes meet only 3 hours per week; some classes are offered at night and weekends.
A language arts course is one year (38 weeks) long. An English course is one semester (16 weeks) long.
With the exception of Illinois Virtual High School, classes are face to face. You may select to enroll in a face to face class, a hybrid class (classes face to face and online) or an online class (entire class is provided through Canvas or other learning platform.
Students use limited technology, primarily word processing, to complete assignments. Assignments are handed in during class, in person. Students are expected to know how to word process, to manage various types of files, to use technology when composing and submitting assignments, and how to access supplemental materials through online learning platforms like Canvas.
Teachers assign work and due dates throughout the year. A syllabus is provided the first day of class so students can manage their own time.
Often less than one hour per night is expected on homework and studying. Two to three hours outside of class for every hour inside of class is expected on homework and studying; for a 3-credit hour English class, expect to spend between 6 - 9 hours preparing for class each week.
Some class time may be given to start on homework. Limited or no class time is given to start on homework.
Teachers remind you of assignments and due dates. Students are responsible for completing assignments on time.
Teachers provide handouts in class of readings and assignments. Teachers may provide handouts in class, but often supplement textbook readings with online files accessed through learning platforms like Canvas.
Teachers recommend getting help with assignments and provide this help. Teachers often will recommend getting help with assignments, but it is up to you to recognize when you need help, who can help you, and to make arrangements to get help when you need it.
Teachers may offer extra credit. Extra credit is seldom offered; students demonstrate learning through completing required assignments.
Attendance is required by law. Students choose to enroll and attendance is the student's responsibility.
Many language arts classes focus on literature and its interpretation. English composition classes emphasize rhetorical argument, often based on reading non-fiction essays as well as fiction.
Essays may be 2-3 pages utilizing a 5-paragraph format. Essays are longer, demonstrating extended thought, and do not adhere to a strict 5-paragraph format.
Teachers provide materials and questions to guide students.
Teachers provide materials, but key critical thinking skills are emphasized and students are expected to form their own questions. Examples include making inferences, interpreting results, analyzing conflicting explanations to complex problems, supporting arguments with evidence, engaging in deep and reflective learning, and sharing ideas in oral discussions and in writing.


Course grades in high school are typically computed using several components whereas course grades in college may be based on only a few components.

High School College
Homework is consistently graded or checked and homework counts toward the course grade. Homework is assigned, but it may or may not count as part of the course grade.
Tests may be given after each unit or chapter with several tests given during the course. Your grade is based on your writing assignments with limited use of exams.
Grades above “F” may count towards graduation. Only a “C” or better in your English course earns credit towards graduation.
Effort with results will earn good grades. Results rather than effort earn good grades; effort is recognized but it is not enough to earn highest grades.