Don't let new freedom fool you into skipping lectures
The new academic year is under way all around the country, with over 45,000 first year students starting in third-level colleges or universities.
The transition from the structured environment of secondary school to the more independent existence at third level can be liberating and daunting at the same time. There is a great need to get the balance right between freedom and responsibility.
Unlike secondary school, where attendance at class was compulsory, nobody is going to hound third-level students to attend lectures or tutorials. It might seem as if they have a choice as to whether or not to attend. And for the first few weeks at least, students may be tempted to enjoy a carefree existence.
But study is not an optional activity. Although nobody is going to force you to go to your lectures, it is very foolish to skip them. The day of reckoning will come, in the form of exams and other assessments.
So how soon should a student start to study in earnest? This is a question at the back of many first-year students' minds at present. Courses differ in their assessment procedures, but "as early as possible" is probably the best response.
Keep on top of classes, lectures, notes, reading lists etc, from early on. In some courses, attendance at lectures, tutorials (and lab sessions) goes towards the students' final marks.
In a recent orientation sessions in UCD for first-year science students, graphs were shown which demonstrated the relationship between attendance and students' exam results. Not surprisingly, they showed that not one of those students who attended all their classes failed their exams/assessments, and that not one of those who missed most classes passed.
More and more colleges assess students' work throughout the year, with that mark forming part of their final grade, so it is important to note when assessments fall due, and pace oneself accordingly.
UCD advises students that possibly the most challenging part of adjusting to university life is taking control of their own learning.
Students are reminded that they may be required to do quite a bit of research and reading outside the lecture hall or seminar room, so what seems like big gaps in a timetable are there to allow time for that study.
But there is more to college than just study. Learning to maintain the balance between the social and the academic life is a very real part of the challenge facing students.
All the activities that a college has to offer -- getting involved in sports, clubs and societies, writing for college magazines, getting involved in student representative bodies -- are as important a part of the college experience as lectures and tutorials.
It is sometimes through these activities that students develop ideas and contacts that help them develop a career path, as much as the academic qualification.
It is a combination of social and academic development that helps students achieve what DCU has recently defined as Graduate Attributes.
These are: to be creative and enterprising, solution-oriented, effective communicators, globally engaged, active leaders, and committed to continuous learning.
DCU has developed its new programme of initiatives entitled Generation 21, to shape its graduates into rounded individuals ready to take their place and succeed in the workforce and in life.
Open days: A new cycle of college open days for school leavers starts, with two in NUI Galway, on Friday next September 30, and Saturday October 1.