Tips for settling into college life if you’re nervous about starting

Ryan shares his thoughts on different things you can do to help settle into college life

Written by Ryan Mangan


With tens of thousands of new students starting college this month, it’s understandable for many to freeze up at the difficulty of lecture slides, get lost along corridors, struggle to break the ice with person after person, and feel their consumption of coffee increase fivefold. Whether your next step after the Leaving Cert is a PLC, college or university course, it’s important to know that the transition from secondary school to higher levels can be tricky. A lot of us have been through these changes before, so we can help you if the going get tough.

At first, it may all seem overwhelming, but after a while, it gets easier. You’ll hopefully be in the swing of things in no time and see how great college is. By following a list of guides throughout my four undergrad years, I graduated successfully from a once overwhelming course, with good grades, new friends, and many pleasant memories.

Plenty of people and services to help you

No matter what’s on your mind – whether you have questions about college fees, had something personal happen at home which is stopping you from going to lectures or  assignments, want to opt in or out of certain modules, or simply just talk to somebody about your wellbeing – universities and colleges not only have helpful student information desks, friendly lecturers, heads of department and tutors, they also have student counselling services which normally free of charge. There are endless lists of students who attend counselling sessions for whatever reason, and can really benefit from the services.

Tutorials are extra classes or lectures given by more experienced students to help you understand the subjects ahead of assignments. Tutorials are popular for newer college students as you might not be used to researching or judging the course yourself. It’s in your best interests as first or second year students to go to tutorials, as tutors are aware of what style of questions comes up regularly on exams or in assignments. Attending tutorials is also a way of meeting fellow eager students, who may be willing to study with you or help you with assignments in future.

You can also check out your university/college website for older students who advertise themselves for grinds at reasonable rates.

Work life vs. college life

If you’re like me and will be holding down a part-time job as well, you’ll know it’s not easy. College can be extremely tough alone, never mind with the responsibility of bringing in an income on top of that. I can’t recommend quitting your job, or even reducing your hours, but sometimes speaking to your manager can be helpful.

For example, after talking about the stress I was under keeping up both my grades and my work hours, my manager and I reached the compromise of reducing the number of days I had to work, but increasing my hours for the days I came in. That way I had more evenings off to catch up with my assignments and spent less time commuting. If you speak to your manager and still feel overworked, speak to your personnel manager (if you have one), or a friendly colleague who may advise you or have more knowledge of your rights. In general employers can be very accommodating of students.

Preparation for concentration

Eating healthy, for me, was my college success. When I prepared my meals for the week on a Sunday morning, I could always expect a stress freeweek. When I skipped a weekend of preparation, the following week was never as easy. Meal prep meant saving money by avoiding spending ridiculous amounts on smaller portion sizes, unhealthy eating, and wasting time leaving campus to find healthier options. When I prepared my meals, it really helped helped with my study i.e. I spent more time in the library because my lunch breaks were shorter and I able to focus more during my lectures and labs because my healthy snacks were accessible and eaten right before I attended them.

Career fairs

For students who don’t have a work placement during their undergrad, sometimes your first encounters with employers is during college ‘career fairs.’ Whether you’re in the first or final year of your course, I’d really recommend going to these events. Speaking to recruiters face-to face is better than through email. Many companies attend these fairs, and a lot of companies welcome graduate applications from different courses. It was at the careers fair that I spoke to a recruitment consultant from my current employer, who guided me through the application stages which eventually led to me being hired straight out of college. By attending the fair, I also learned important skills for improving my LinkedIn and I was offered advice on which information to highlight most on the website to stand out from the crowd.

Perspectives always change

I remember not enjoying my undergrad course at all for the first few weeks; I found myself stuck in a general science course when I really only wanted to study journalism. After a lot of encouragement from family, friends and university staff, sticking with the general course ended up being the best thing for me as it allowed me to gradually discover my interests and end up focusing on what I’m very interested in – human anatomy. General courses are good because they leave you with arange of employment options and can lead to wide range of masters or postgraduate courses. The take home message is that at first, you may not think what you’re doing is for you, but I speak from experience when I say give it a chance and invest all that you can into it – you will be pleasantly surprised!

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