Going to College in Ireland: Here's what to expect
What to expect and how to deal with it
So the horror of the Leaving Cert is finally behind you and you can move on with your life for good. But now a new reality hits you; how do I survive college life?
Honestly, it's going to be a huge change. You’ll (possibly) be away from home, away from your family, away from your friends, basically away from everything you’re used to and comfortable with. It’s just a whole new stage in your life and it will take time to adjust. Below is a quick run-through of what life is generally like after the Leaving Cert and what changes you can expect.
Being away from home:
For a lot of you, it’ll be the first time away from your family (and friends, possibly). This can be upsetting for some people, which is understandable. If you’re homesick, that’s ok, it’ll get better.
Once you make friends and really get into your course, the weeks fly by and before you know it, you’ll be dying to go back to college rather than dying to go home. And remember, home is only a phone call away, but try to be independent and enjoy this new exciting time in your life.
Changing your living space:
Chances are you’ll be living in student accommodation, something you won’t have experienced before. No mom or dad to cook your meals, do your shopping for you, do your washing for you, clean your dishes, clean the house, etc. It’s a massive lifestyle change.
Depending on who or how many you’re living with, you may also have to try and tackle sharing the cleaning (a lot of your housemates will NOT do it), you’re faced with new responsibilities that you took for granted when you were at home. Try to see everything from everyone's point of view, don't be THAT guy that never cleans up, no one likes that guy.
To go from doing 6/7/8/9 subjects that you may only like one or two of, to doing subjects that you actually have an interest in is a great change. I didn’t realise this until I came to college. I was sitting in one of my classes one day and realised that I loved it and I actually wanted to be there, whereas I never enjoyed or wanted to be in that Maths class in school, I just took it for granted that I had to go.
Another big difference is the format of the classes you go to. There are lectures, labs and tutorials, which you won’t have experienced in school. You have to alter the way you learn.
No one is going to spoon-feed you anymore. No one is going to hand you all the notes you need, you need to take your own. No one is going to tell you exactly what you have to learn to succeed in that subject, you need to figure that out by yourself. No one is going to tell you exactly what you need to have in an essay to get a good grade, you need to find that out yourself. You need to be responsible for yourself and very independent in college to succeed.
Changing how you work:
I'm sure by now you reckon you know exactly how to write a good Leaving Cert-style essay. The bad news is that this counts for nothing now. The style of writing needed for college work is completely different and it’ll take a while for you to figure out how to do it right. A lot of trial and error and learning from mistakes is your only way or learning because unfortunately, they won’t give you much help, and again, you need to figure it all out yourself.
College academic writing involves a lot of referencing, citing, research, etc. so all your personal opinions, background links, descriptive/personal styles of writing all have much less value and importance to you now.
Luckily, google is only a click away. There’s a ton of sites that will tell you how to reference and cite and chances are your college of choice will have an information page on how to write and academic piece. Make use of these resources!
Some of you will end up in the same college as a lot of your friends, so you’ll always have someone there for support or a taste of home if you need it. If you’re like me, however, you’ll be in a college far away from all your friends and it’s up to you to make new friends and fit in ok.
Although this seems almost childish, it will probably have been about 6 years since you were faced with the tasks of making all these new friends, so you might be out of practise.
The orientation day for your course is usually a good time to make new friends, or fresher’s week in your college is a great way of meeting new people in a social environment. Ask people in your course where they’re from, why they chose the course, etc. to break the ice and move on from there. Remember that everyone else there is probably in the same boat as you so will be very friendly because they too want to make new friends.
If you find it hard to make friends, I would recommend joining clubs and societies. Join as many as you can and try to go to all the meetings, that way you can meet people with the same interests as you.
Change of responsibility:
As I’ve said, it’s all on you now. You’re an adult now and you’ve got to make your own decisions and deal with the consequences. Take me, for example, I got so caught up in the excitement of doing my own food shopping that I forgot that you can’t survive solely on Nougat Pillows from Lidl and Pot Noodles. I suffered badly that week; I was tired all the time, had no energy, couldn’t concentrate and also got a cold. The following week, I copped on and bought some fruit and vegetables for the week. I felt good again with the replacement of vitamins, so keep your diet reasonably healthy to keep your body happy.
Also, try to get a good amount of sleep. I know it’s difficult in college because your social life will be a million times better than it was in the Leaving Cert, but try to be somewhat responsible about it. Getting a good sleep is essential for your health and will also help you concentrate in your classes and lecture which in turn is essential in getting a good grade.
Keeping on top of everything:
Often, people think that college is all parties and fun (which it is a lot) but they forget that there’s a lot of hard work involved too. People forget that you’ll constantly have assignments, essays, presentations, mid-terms and continuous assessments to do. And although it's easier said than done, try not to leave everything to the last minute, you'll hate yourself for it.
I would recommend keeping a diary or making a to-do list to keep track of all you need to do and when it’s needed.
Finally, remember to have fun. These will probably be the best 4+ years of your life.
Eimear and the Studyclix team.