Going to College: New Systems – New Challenges – Many thoughts will occupy your mind as you prepare for college. Will I make new friends? Will I fit in? Will I be academically able for my chosen course of study? You may also be worried about moving away from home. Rest assured that most of your concerns will pass without too much complication and you will welcome a fresh start. Things to note:
The CAO Application: Choosing what you are interested in is key to success in college. There is still plenty of time to work on this. List your courses in order of genuine interest and have lots of choice.
Changing communication channels: At school, the relationship was between you, your parents and the school. At college it’s between you and the college and your parents will be depending on a healthy relationship with you to let them know how you are getting on. Each college and course will have its own unique way of communicating with you, likewise each lecturer will too. It is important to read your course handbook to find out key information including dates, deadlines, examinations and what supports and services are available to you.
Fitting in Socially: College life is more than an academic experience. The pressures of making new friends yet remaining loyal to old ones can bring on anxieties and fears. Fresher’s week is an exciting and eventful week in which you will be introduced to college life, sports, clubs and societies. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and form lasting friendships.
Managing the learning process: This is something quite different from the demands of the second level system where reward is mainly given for memorisation and rote learning. To be successful at college you need to be proactive and take ownership and responsibility for your own learning.
Changing finances: College is an expensive business and funding is a very big issue for students and families as we see the costs rising every year. The discussion of what these bills are and how they can be met is an important one and should be fully explored before you start college.
Homesickness: Most students suffer a little homesickness. Those at home miss the daily predictable routines of the school years and those who live away also miss the daily exchanges at the kitchen table. Being involved in clubs and societies will help you overcome this.
Believe in your own ability: You have come this far, don’t stop now. Things will seem very strange at first: new structures, new people, new system. You are not alone. Give it time.
Know yourself: Understand your strengths and weaknesses, know your friends, your confidants, know when you are comfortable in situations and when you feel threatened. Remember there is help at hand in every college for all situations whether you get into social, personal or academic difficulty. It’s good to ask and it’s good to talk.
Make things happen: Going to college is about becoming informed, taking control and responsibility. Be your own driver in all that you do.
If you want to hit the ground running, check out ‘Cracking the College Code’ which is written from the third level perspective with lots of practical tips for students in how to make a successful transition. Described by the President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors as the ‘must have’ essential guide for all students, parents and guardians -– the book that should be in every Leaving Cert student’s bag”. It is endorsed by third level institutions, Provost of TCD, Minister for Education and Skills, President of the institute of Guidance Counsellors, National Parents Council post primary, School Principals, teachers, parents and students.
Published by CJ Fallon, it is available at all good bookshops and at: www.crackingthecollegecode.ie
Catherine O’Connor, Trinity College Dublin, is an Education Consultant and Author of ‘Cracking the College Code’ A practical guide to making the most of the first year college experience.