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Heading to college for the first time?

The transition from school to college can be a scary one. There’s a whole bunch of new experiences that you’re going to go through and an even greater bunch of new people you’re going to come across.

Going through a checklist of Pile of booksthings you need to go to college (pens, highlighters, a bus ticket and more) is only going to prepare you so much for the actuality of living through your first few weeks. Here’s three things I wish I knew before starting college:

Don’t buy every book

A habit we can carry through from secondary school is buying every recommended book. When you enter college, this just isn’t feasible. Reading lists often span multiple pages and every resource isn’t essential to read. To start off, look at your reading list (which you should get in your first few days for each class you’re taking) and divide books into recommended and necessary. If your lecturer has not done this for you, it’s typically the first 2-3 books that are truly needed for the class.

Next, see if the book is available in the library. If it is, you might not need to buy it depending on how many copies are available. If the book is not available in the library, or not available in high enough of quality, see if there’s a .pdf version of the book online or an eBook. These are usually cheaper than physical books. On top of that, you can pool money together with fellow classmates to purchase one eBook you can all share.

Using this technique, I only had to purchase one book in two years in college. Of course, things may differ from degree to degree.

Forget about how many pages you need to write

This is something I found people struggling with a lot. Everyone is obsessed with how many pages are needed for things – from assignments all the way to exams. While this was necessary for secondary school, the way we measure things in college is different. There is greater focus on quality than there quantity.

Typically, every assignment will come with a word limit. These can range from 800 words all to way to 10,000 words (though, you won’t usually get assigned something that long). In exams, it’s not about length. Your ability is measured on how well you can construct an argument and answer a question. So, from here-on-in, forget about how many pages are needed.

What’s a Students’ Union?

Something you wouldn’t have encountered in secondary school is a Students’ Union. I know I had no idea what a Students’ Union was when I started two years ago. Essentially, a Students’ Union is a group of individuals that have been elected by the student body to represent them. There’ll be between 4-5 main sabbatical officers, who’ll each have their own area. For example, Welfare & Equality.

The Students’ Union will organise events for students, attend protests, provide supports, and basically do everything they can to help students out. It will do wonders for your first few weeks to get acquainted with them.

Embrace opportunity

The best advice I can give you is to jump at every opportunity that comes to you. Join that club, run for Class Rep, take the semester abroad. Whatever experience you didn’t get to have during secondary school, make sure you have it now. Just go with it

This blog was written for ReachOut.com by our Youth Editorial Board member Dean O’Reilly.

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