Comparison between secondary school and college

The main differences between secondary school and college are presented below. This information is representative of the majority of secondary schools and colleges in Québec.


Secondary school


School attendanceSchool attendance is compulsoryuntil the end of the school year during which the student reaches the age of 16 or until the end of the school year during which the student is awarded a diploma if the student is less than 16 years old, based on section 14 of the Education Act This hyperlink will open in a new window..Higher education, including college studies, is a personal choice. To learn more about college studies, see the College Education section on the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur website.
Class attendanceAttendance is class is compulsory.Attendance in class is one of the factors of success. However, in college, each department sets their own attendance policy.
School year

The school year lasts 10 months and is separated into 3 terms. For more information, see the Basic school regulation for preschool, elementary and secondary education This hyperlink will open in a new window..

A school year has two semesters that are each approximately 16 weeks long and may also include a summer semester. Weeks for midterm and final exams can be found in the school calendar.

See the “School Calendar” section of your college’s website to learn about the important dates.

Length of classesClasses generally have a duration of 50 to 75 minutes.Classes have a duration of 1 to 4 hours, depending on the subject.
Class scheduleNormally, classes are scheduled from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on a cycle covering 5 or 10 days.

Classes can be scheduled throughout the day, are organized on a 5-day cycle and may include free periods between classes.

See examples of college schedules This hyperlink will open in a new window., available in French only.
Work outside of classThe workload outside of class varies, from an average of 2-3 hours to several hours per week during the exam period.

The workload outside of class is heavier, with an average of 15 or more hours per week.

This tool allows you to see the estimated amount of work This hyperlink will open in a new window. per week and per course.
WorkWork is planned for the short term and the assignments are generally short.

Work must be planned for the long term and the assignments are often long compositions and research projects.

This planning tool This hyperlink will open in a new window. (available in French only) suggests using a calendar or term planner to better organize a term.
Support and help for success

Parental support This hyperlink will open in a new window. is required and changes over the years.

Support is provided by teachers.

Students are more independent and must initiate the process themselves to receive support from teaching staff and the available resources.

Parental supervision is helpful, especially during the first semester of college.

Parental involvementParents must sign documents and authorize some activities. They are invited to meet with teachers.

Parents do not sign documents and are not invited to meet with teachers. Students are responsible for their own educational files.

For more information on the role of parents in college education, see the section on this topic This hyperlink will open in a new window. on the Ordre des conseillers et conseillères en orientation du Québec website.
Who is responsible for support and complementary services
  • Educational services
  • School administrators
For more information, see Complementary Educational Services: Essential to Success This hyperlink will open in a new window..
  • Adapted services (student accessibility services)

    To learn more about adapted services in college, see the Centres collégiaux de soutien à l’intégration (CCSI) website, available in French only.

    See also the “adapted services” and “help with academic achievement” sections on your college’s website.

Ways to access services

Testing and/or evaluation of difficulties by different staff members

Upon request by the student or parent

Implementation of interim services is based on the student’s decision to divulge information about their situation. Students are responsible for initiating the process to gain access to accommodation measures. Students generally have a diagnosis.

Other professional services are available upon request by the student (and occasionally upon the recommendation of a member of the teaching staff) without a diagnosis.

See the memory aid on preparing to start college and registering for adapted services This hyperlink will open in a new window., available in French only.

Similar comparison tables can be found on the websites of various educational institutions.

In secondary school, students benefit from a structured and regulated environment. The school, in cooperation with parents, ensures that students have support on their educational path by ensuring that students with disabilities or specific needs have access to the support that they require.

In college, students acquire the habits and independence necessary to act as if “education was their profession” (information in French) meaning they are asked to manage their schedule, plan their study period, complete long assignments (alone or in groups), access additional resources autonomously, meet with teaching staff outside of class hours, etc.

Last update: February 23, 2023


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