Starting college off on the right foot volunteer Kat shares her tips on getting the most out of college

Written by Kat O'Connor


New chapter in your life

We’ve officially waved goodbye to summer and have said hello to early mornings and 9am lectures. Thousands of Irish students will be entering a new and exciting stage of their lives this September, the start of their college years. It’s a daunting and overwhelming time for 1st year students, but it is a big moment that marks a brand, spanking new chapter in your life and in my opinion it’s one of the best chapters by far.

The most important thing to do is to study something that you’re passionate about, whether that’s English at Trinity, Culinary Arts at IT Tallaght or Radio Programming and Production at BCFE. Pick a course that is right for you. Don’t waste your time on a course if you don’t care about it or feel like it’s not right for you. There’s no better feeling than going into class and learning about something you love. Back in secondary school I used to hate sitting in my higher level Irish class listening to my teacher go on and on about the importance of Irish grammar. Studying something you dislike or have no interest in leaves you feeling drained, so make sure you are studying something you adore.

Preparing for day one

You don’t want to start your new course off by feeling unprepared and exhausted, so make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before. I know many of us would prefer to stay up late watching Stranger Things on Netflix, but you’ll regret it when you’re dozing off in your seminar about what books you’ll be analysing for English Literature class. Set a handful of alarms on your phone, hop into bed with a good book and a pint of water and I guarantee you’ll wake up feeling a lot better and ready to face your first day. Irish Mammies are right when they say “you need to get your full eight hours sleep”.

Another important thing to remember is transport. Your college may be a twenty minute walk from your house or it may be a two hour bus trip from the city, so give yourself plenty of time to get to college in the mornings. The Dublin Bus app was a lifesaver when I was travelling to college out in Dun Laoghaire. The real time app shows you how long your bus will take to get to your stop, so you won’t have to miss your breakfast before college (I understand how important that 8am bowl of Coco Pops is). One thing to invest in when you start college is a Leap Card. Transport fees are incredibly expensive, especially for us students who are only working part time. The Leap Card is my saving grace when it comes to saving a few bob. Instead of paying full bus fares you pay the Leap Card fee which is a lot cheaper than the regular fare (you’ll save yourself at least 65 cent per trip). Plus you don’t need to rummage around in your purse for change which is another bonus.

Looking after your body and mind

Your lifestyle is going to change a lot when you start college. You’ll become a lot more independent, especially if you’re moving out of your family home, so you need to remember to take care of your body and mind. The social side to college is a lot more hectic than it was in secondary school, mainly because everyone is now over 18 which means you can legally drink. College night outs will take up a lot of space on your calendar. There’ll be drinks in the local pub after a late lecture, late nights out in Coppers with the majority of first year and Society Balls where you can get another wear out of your debs suit again. These events may be the best fun but you need to remember what your limit is. Too much alcohol consumption will leave you feeling sluggish and lazy. There’ll be a lot of pressure on you to join in on taking shots or having another drink instead of getting the bus home, but do what feels right to you. Stick to your own limit and drink water in between drinks. When you’re going home make sure you stick with a friend or two, walking home alone or getting a taxi or bus alone at night isn’t a safe or wise option. Don’t forget that there’s nothing wrong with drinking at your own pace or leaving a club early. Do whatever you are most comfortable with.

I know eating leftover pizza for breakfast may seem like a dream to you but you can’t let it become a staple in your diet. If you do start drinking more in college you can’t neglect your diet either, it’ll have a dangerously negative effect on your health. Try and eat as much fruit and veg as you can. Do your best to avoid eating takeaway every night of the week, your body will not appreciate living off a diet of spice bags and pizza. Exercise is something you shouldn’t neglect either, go for a stroll with your friend after class or join the college gym and go two or three times a week. You don’t need to do anything strenuous, something as simple as a half hour swim will leave you feeling refreshed. Plenty of colleges will have running clubs, basketball teams and Maynooth even has a trampolining society.

Embrace your true self

The main message I’d say to any first year student is to be yourself. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s the most important thing I’ve learned throughout my college years. College is a place where you can embrace your true self. You’ll learn so much about yourself over the next few years. You’ll discover hidden talents, new passions and find your own sense of style now that you’ve waved goodbye to that hideous secondary school uniform. You’ll also make friends that will have an unbelievably positive impact on your life. Join the societies that interest you, go to social events that tickle your fancy and don’t be afraid to say hello to your classmates. Embrace every minute of your college years and don’t take them for granted.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” – Dr Seuss.

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