Guide: Life for American High School/College Students


lifehappenedtome asked: Hello and thanks for your reply to my last question and your blog in general! I’ve been doing research for hours on the American educational system but most of it is so general and tells me nothing about a student’s everyday life (high school + college / uni). I don’t want to rely on what I know from literature and television, so is there any simple ‘guide’ or something?

You’re very welcome! I’m glad I was able to help. :)

As far as an American student’s daily life, I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for specifically, but I’ll take a stab at it.

Types of High School

High school students can attend a public school, charter school, private school, or parochial school. Or, they may be homeschooled.


The public school system provides buses for public schools and charter schools, so students may ride the bus to school, walk or ride their bike, be driven by a parent or friend, or drive themselves (depending on their age and if they have a driver’s license and car.) 


The traditional school year lasts from August/September to May/June within a three month summer break between grades. Most schools have two extended break periods during the school year, a winter break for a week or two surrounding Christmas, and a one week break in March or April called Spring Break. Most students also get a few days off for Thanksgiving, and some get a one week break fall break in October.

Schools subject to severe weather like winter storms or hurricanes may also get weather-related days off. Sometimes, during bad winter weather, instead of a snow day, the district will call a delayed schedule, meaning that the school day will start later, usually between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. There are also random days off throughout the year for national holidays and teacher in-service days, which are planning and meeting days for teachers. Sometimes there are half-days, which can be ahead of a break or for various other reasons.

The regular school day usually begins between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., depending on the school. Some schools have different schedules for different days throughout the week, with some days starting later or ending earlier.

An Average Day

The typical school day consists of before school, during school, and after school. Some students may arrive early or stay late for extra curricular activities like sports, clubs, tutoring, or band/theater rehearsals.

The main part of the school day is divided into periods, each of which contain a class, study time, or a lunch break. The length of these periods may vary depending on the school, and between each period is a 3-5 minute passing period to allow students to get to their next class. Some schools also have a mid-morning break between 10 - 15 minutes to allow for snacks, bathroom and locker visits, library time, or other school-related errands.

Students usually have several core classes like math, English, science, history, and a few electives like foreign language, arts and crafts, and music or theater. Lunches are usually scattered across two or three periods so that all students don’t go to lunch at the same time. Some high schools are open campus, meaning that students can leave at any time, including lunch. At closed campus schools, students need parental permission to leave, so they normally just eat lunch in the cafeteria or outside, weather permitting. Most schools have rules prohibiting lunching students from loitering in the halls and disturbing other students.

After school, some students will stay after for extracurricular activities or detention, and others will go home or to an after school job. Students usually do homework in the evening and may be expected to go to bed earlier than they would on the weekend.

Types of College

After graduating high school, a student who decides to go to college might go to one of several types of schools. Community and junior colleges are two year institutions where a student can obtain an associates degree. This can be transferred to a four year college or university if the student chooses. Others go straight to a four year college or university, and still others may go to a vocational school (or trade school) where they learn a particular trade like medical transcription, mechanics, or plumbing.

Daily Life in College

Students attending community college, junior college, or vocational school usually live at home or in an apartment with roommates. Students who attend a four year college or university usually live in a dorm for at least the first two years, at which point they may move into off-campus housing with friends.

Most students will have at least a few classes a day. They may be clumped together or scattered at different times throughout the day. Some students have full or part-time jobs in college. Those may be on campus or off. Life in a dorm or off-campus housing can be very socially oriented, with many parties and other events happening throughout the week.


Typical Day for a High School Student

A Day in an American High School (video)

180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School (documentary)

A Day in the Life of a College Student

Get Familiar With Typical Daily Life at a U.S. College

The Life Of A College Student Is Pretty Awesome, Report Reveals 

Education in the United States


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fishingboatproceeds answered:

"The lock on your diary wasn’t very good, so it’s your fault I read your diary."