Differences between high school and university

University is a different learning environment from high school, and it comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. Understanding these differences will help you settle into uni life and make the most of this new chapter.

Things that are different at university

You have more flexibility and freedom

No more 9am to 3.30pm days! As a uni student, you can often choose class times that suit you best. Some days you may have lectures all day, and other days you might be completely free. You’ll be doing some independent study for your courses, but can also fill this time with hanging out with your new uni friends, family responsibilities or even a part-time job.

You’re in charge

At uni, your lecturers treat you like an adult. They won't call home if you’re absent or issue a detention for not finishing your homework. This means you’ll need to manage your time wisely and take note of when your assignments are due. A tip from us – write down key dates in your calendar at the start of the semester!

You choose what you want to study

Hate English speeches? Sick of weekly math quizzes? Good news, at uni you can choose to study topics you are interested in! Depending on the uni degree you’re studying, this could be something more traditional, like science or business or could include something unique like extended reality or cruise ship management! By choosing a degree that matches your interests, you have the freedom to explore your interests, discover your strengths and turn your passion into a profession.

You’ll be part of a bigger community

Leaving school and joining uni, where there could be thousands of people in your year, can seem nerve-wracking. But a bigger community means bigger, better opportunities! Whether you want to know how to create a startup, learn a new language or discuss the latest drama in pop culture, you can do it! There's a club for just about everything.

How other students found the transition to university

Ella Rea-Rankin

Ella Rea-Rankin

Ngāti Maniapoto
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with a minor in Children and Learning
“The transition from high school to university was a change of pace – taking control of my learning, developing a routine and learning new systems was overwhelming at first. However, AUT has great resources, workshops and student support available to make this transition to university easier.”
Toetu Fatu Lafoai

Toetu Fatu Lafoai

Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science
“My transition to university from high school was an intimidating one, especially because my entire education life was in a different country. At AUT, there is a lot of support offered by course coordinators, including tutorials, office hours and many other resources.”
Willow Harper

Willow Harper

Bachelor of Health Science in Perioperative Practice
“The biggest challenge when transitioning from high school to university is definitely taking responsibility. My piece of advice would be to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to put your hand up. AUT lecturers are extremely helpful and resourceful, but you have to take the initiative. No one will know you need help unless you ask for it.”
Sherry Ng

Sherry Ng

Bachelor of Creative Technologies
“I was so nervous going into university because I came from a small high school where everyone knew each other by name. I didn’t know anyone when I started at AUT but fortunately, I was quick to meet new friends during Orientation.”
Reuben Terehu Shortland

Reuben Terehu Shortland

Ngāti Hine
Bachelor of Design in Digital Design
“My very first day at university really still sticks out to me. It was me and a bunch of people all connecting over shared interests. There was this excitement we all shared for the three-year journey ahead, and to an extent that energy really sustained itself throughout.”
Maia Hemara-Tylden

Maia Hemara-Tylden

Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Rangi
Bachelor of Arts in Māori Development with a minor in Education
“Learning to navigate this new space was a journey. I made some great friends while I was at AUT. We all came from similar backgrounds and were all in this to do better for ourselves and our whānau. My advice is to get stuck into the different clubs around campus, and don’t be shy to make friends.”
Sophia Ernst

Sophia Ernst

Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of International Hospitality Management conjoint programmes
“I entered AUT without any of my high school friends and managed to make friendships that I know will last a lifetime. There are so many opportunities at AUT, and all I can say is you should go for them all because you never know what you might get out of it and it could be the best thing that you do.”
Anjila Reddy

Anjila Reddy

Bachelor of Health Science (Podiatry)
“It’s okay to not have gotten it ‘right’ the first time. Sometimes you need to try something that might not be right to realise what is for you. It can feel like so much pressure out of high school to get it right, but changing degrees is totally okay. I wouldn’t be doing the job I love now if I hadn’t.”
Madison Tibbits

Madison Tibbits

Bachelor of Business in Management and Leadership & Marketing
“I found the support at AUT to be exceptional and easily accessible, resulting in a smooth enrolment process and transition from high school to university.”

Tips to help you bridge the gap

  • Get to know your lecturers – they are your main source of academic support
  • Take time to recharge. Join a club, meet people and have fun in your free time
  • Get to know the different student services to make the most of your time at uni
  • Use the library’s resources and learn how to cite research effectively
  • Make an effort to attend your tutorials because lecturers will often hint at what material will be included in the exams
  • Plan ahead – read your course outline and set your own deadlines for assignments before the actual due date
  • Be assertive and ask for help if you need it
  • Use a diary to plan how to approach the workload and stay on top of everything
  • Be patient with yourself – you’re entering a new chapter, and transitioning can take time

Talk to us about your study options

Support for new students at AUT

Thinking about studying at AUT? Book a time with us to discuss your study options, learn more about uni life at AUT or perhaps even check out our campus for yourself.

Meet with us

Not sure what course is right for you?

Feeling confused by all the options? It’s okay if you don’t know yet – many students start uni without being too sure how they see their future. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered!


New to AUT? Get set up for studying

If you’re not sure what to expect, you might also find the links below useful to get started.

University language explained

students help each other

There are a few words or phrases used around uni that you may not have heard during school. It’s a good idea to get to know these while you’re studying. Our glossary covers the AUT language you need to know.