Starting your college life
The golden gates to college have been cast open to you. First off, fair play. It’s never easy climbing up the rungs of higher education, so make sure you appreciate what an achievement it is.
Going off to college will be one of the most exciting times of your life.
Whether you’re chomping at the bit to get going, or a little hesitant about the change, we’ve got some practical tips to see you through the early days.
After the endless dance that was the CAO, the last thing you probably want to do is fill out another form. However, it’s worth taking a bit of time to make sure your registration, fees payments, and grant applications are sorted.
Find out where the registry office is at your college. If you can, don’t leave submissions of things until the day of deadline. Print off a campus map and your timetable, to help you navigate around college in the first week.
Finding a place to stay
Finding accommodation can be stressful, but not impossible. If you’re looking at off-campus accommodation, make sure it’s within a reasonable distance of your college.
A 40 minute bus journey make seem like a grand adventure in the mild days of autumn, but will become a thorn in your side when it’s 6am in the depths of winter.
If you’re going to be living away from your family for the first time, be prepared for the reality of ironing and washing your own clothes. Now you’re going to be responsible for your own meals and managing your day-to-day finances.
Even if you’re still going to be living at home with your parents, there are changes you need to consider.
College brings with it a new level of responsibility and ownership of your life, from class attendance to staying out late. The key to success is managing things. Be realistic with your goals, time, money and schedule. You’re in the driving seat now, take charge.
There is a special kind of nostalgia you will reserve for your first fresher’s week as a first year in college. Of course, you’ll still be going to them long after you’ve stopped being the newbie. But when it’s your Fresher’s Week, make sure to enjoy it.
It’s a great opportunity to break the ice with classmates you might be nervous around. It also gives you the chance to meet people from other courses, and get a taste of campus life.
Remember everyone is in the same boat, so don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. If you’re over 18 years old and you’re going to be drinking alcohol, please do so responsibly.
Speaking of alcohol… There are going to be times when you will feel pressured to drink. Whether you’re teetotal or you enjoy a couple of beers, you should never drink for the following reasons:
- Someone is egging you too
- Everyone else is doing it
- You feel socially awkward and you think alcohol might loosen you up
- It’s five drinks for the price of three, sure that’s a bargain
- For any reason other than it being your choice.
Chances are, you’re going to have more than one night when you drink to excess and regret it the next morning. However, if at any point you’re concerned that your drinking is negatively impacting your life or your studies, talk to someone about it.
Using travel time effectively
Be it the daily commute, or the weekend home to see your Mammy (and get your washing done), maximise your time, but don’t be over ambitious. There’s nothing wrong with using travel time to read an article for class or jot some notes on an assignment.
Don’t convince yourself that you’re going to write 3,000 words to/from college.
College can be a hectic time, so use these occasions to try unwinding a little – listening to music, reading a book, calling a friend. An essential part of being productive is being unproductive at the right time.
Every college will have an on-campus security team. They’re there for your protection and to make you feel safe. Stick their number in your phone. Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but it’s always a good contact to have to hand.
It doesn’t even have to be for super scary things; if you don’t want to walk to your car on your own late at night or you locked yourself out of your room, they will be happy to help.
Avoid badly-lit streets at night time and plan your route home, especially if you’re going on a night out, in advance.
There are a whole host of people and services that are available to make your college experience as enjoyable as possible. From the Student’s Union to on-campus health clinics, arm yourself with the knowledge of what you’re entitled to as a student.
There is always someone to talk to, be it a friendly fellow student or a professional. College, while wonderful, can be overwhelming and it’s important you know about the range of counselling services available should you need them.
Even the most self-possessed people find college is a voyage of discovery. This is a time to challenge yourself and try new things. Always wanted to give rugby a go? Or yearned to get involved in a stage production? Maybe you want to write for the student newspaper or take a class in politics?
College is the perfect time to satisfy your curiosities. Clubs and societys are a fantastic way to broaden your interests and meet people you normally never would have encountered.
It might feel scary at times trying new things, but never let fear hold you back from doing something that could enhance your life.
If things don’t go to plan…
College, just like life, doesn’t always go to plan. Maybe you’re having second thoughts about your course or you’re finding it hard to adjust to your new life.
You’re not the first person to feel that way and you won’t be the last. However, it’s important not to bottle your anxieties up, whatever they may be. A lot of the time, you just need a supportive ear and a bit of perspective.
If you find yourself knowing that the place or the course is not the right path for you, that’s okay too. An important part of a journey can be realizing you took a wrong turn.
It doesn’t make you a failure, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting that something just isn’t for you. It means you have the savvy to know what works for you and what doesn’t.
Be willing to get help, from family, friends or someone else you trust, and make the decision that’s best for you. This is your life.