Words That Have Completely Different Meanings in High School vs. University


Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday that you were walking the halls of your old high school?

The world was so simple then – back when all your teachers knew you by name and you had everything you could ever need under one roof.

Then you get to university. Although it’s probably one of the most exciting accomplishments of your life so far, starting your undergrad is a huge transition. There’s no arguing that this is a completely different world than the one you were used to. You probably live somewhere different, have made new friends, and have a routine that’s nothing like your high school days. As if that wasn’t enough change, some of the words you used then may mean something entirely different to you now. Take a look at the top 14 words that have totally different definitions now that you’re living the student life.



High School: Mandatory, and no excuses, or your parents will receive a terrifying call from the secretary.

University: Your academic success is in your own hands. Nobody cares if you skip class, but your grades will likely take a hit if you don’t attend lectures. Welcome to adulthood!



High School: The stuff your mom drinks. White mochas and frappuccinos for the win!

University: The substance that makes up 90% of your blood stream and enables you to become a functioning human being every day. It gets you through the all-nighters and the early mornings that come afterwards, and you should probably give it a shout-out when you graduate.



High School: Open to compromise, especially if you have a sympathetic teacher who completely understands having a dog that eats all of your homework.

University: You are expected to know what the assignments are, when they are due, and how you will be graded. Late assignments = docked marks (or no marks). It’s a good idea to keep an academic planner and write down all of your assignments on the first day of class so that you’re never caught off-guard with a 20 page paper due the next day.



High School: A few minor bumps in the road to summer. You can get away with studying for a day or two and then celebrate with ice cream when they’re over. You will post a Facebook status following the completion of each one.

University: Something that you will lose countless hours of sleep and years of your life to study for.



High School: Five paragraphs about a topic of your choice.

University: A 5,000 word nightmare with citations, definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary, and a dicey thesis statement that you’re pretty sure no one’s going to buy.



High School: A nutritious substance for maintaining life and growth that magically appears in your cupboards and fridge. Also includes tasty meals that some nice person makes for you every night.

University: A combination of late night pizza, granola bars, and breakfast sandwiches. Oh, how you miss the days when you complained about “Another stir-fry?”

“Group Projects”


High School: Make schoolwork fun by doing it with your best friends!

University: Make schoolwork that is already hard even harder by trying to create a comprehensive Google Doc with a group of complete strangers who don’t show up to group meetings and have little to no regard for your life goals.

“Lunch Time”


High School: Woo! My favorite hour of the day! Off to the cafeteria I go!

University: Where are my friends? Where is food? Did I miss lunch? Where is money for food? Why is that Starbucks line so long? Who wants to get dinner? Can a Cliff Bar be dinner? Mom?



High School: Those people who you live with.

University: Those people who you call when you need to know how long it takes to hard-boil an egg, what a fitted sheet is, and how to file your taxes. May also need several calls a week to maintain your sanity, confirm that your goals are on track, and that you’re going to be 100% fine, no matter what problems you face.



High School: To Kill a Mockingbird? Great book.

University: Something you need to do before and after each class if you want to actually understand what your professor is talking about during your lectures and on exams.



High School: A psychological thriller starring Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester.

University: A psychological thriller starring you and whoever the residence committee decided to cast as your co-star. Their crimes? Wearing your clothes and sneaking your snacks. A horror movie if there ever was one.

“Snow Days”


High School: A day on which a school or other institution is closed due to heavy snowfall or other extreme winter weather.

University: Hahahahahaha, nope. Better get your parka and sturdy snow boots on, because even when the buses stop running due to weather, you’ll have to walk to class.



High School: Something you wear at home.

University: Something you wear at home, to class, on the bus, to the mall, karaoke with friends, etc.

“Time Tables”


High School: A piece of paper that reminds you where you need to be from 9am-3pm every day

University: A piece of paper that tells you where you need to be from 8am-10pm every day, using abbreviations you’ve never heard of for buildings that are kilometers apart from each other. Oh, and you have ten minutes to sprint across campus for each one.

And there you have it! These are just a few of the words that hold completely different meanings post-high school. All jokes aside, university is an incredible period of growth and transition. These changes and new meanings are an indicator of your broadening perspective and greater understanding of the world that university offers. With these changes come opportunities and experiences that you will carry with you for the rest of your life. Be sure to make the most of it – work hard but still make time to enjoy all that this experience has to offer. (Such as the unwavering acceptance of sweatpants everywhere).