Start as you mean to go on
Published 23/08/2010 | 05:00
The first term at university is a thrilling time, but it can be pretty scary too. You've worked long and hard for this day. There were times you thought it would never come. Now it's almost here and you're about to encounter a whole new world.
The start of college is often a time when people feel a sudden lowering of their confidence. With all the stresses that the Leaving Cert year brought, there was still something familiar about its rigours and routines.
But now, despite the substantial skills you've already learned, it can feel like you're starting from scratch. So, what's the best way to get ready for this big change? Experts on college adjustment suggest a number of useful pointers:
The importance of the very early weeks at college
It is often in the first few weeks of college life that the seeds of success or failure at university are sown.
"It really does help to set good precedents and get into good learning habits from the start," says Dr Mary Fitzpatrick, the University of Limerick's teaching and learning advocate.
"If students get comfortable with positive routines to support their learning from day one of week one, they automatically strengthen the chances of long term success at college and beyond."
Focusing on finances and the practicalities of everyday living
The world has grown economically colder in a frighteningly short space of time and like everyone else, students are worried about money, which is all the more reason for setting up a sustainable way of managing day to day expenses, and figuring out how you're going to keep a roof over your head. Planning and sticking to a sustainable, realistic budget is vital.
Paying attention to your goals
Okay, so you might not have your career path worked out to its final detail, but career experts have shown that the earlier you get a sense of what your strengths are, and what kinds of ambitions might suit your talents best, the more likely you are to stay motivated even during those inevitable times at college when the going gets tough. It's important to have an idea of where you're going.
If career goals feel too long term in the early days, then setting your sights on the kinds of things you want to achieve within the first year can also be a good way of keeping your efforts focused.
A lot of material and notes are available on university Learning Management Systems these days, but it's still vital to turn up to every single one of your lectures and tutorials right from the very start, even if you're not always sure of the added value of those experiences. Lecture absenteeism is still strongly correlated with poor academic performance.
Besides, you're not going to be able to make sense of the more complicated stuff unless you stick with the programme from the start, and that demands discipline, attendance and a willingness to interact with your teachers as well as the subject.
Social support and enjoyment
Of course you have to have some fun, too. You can make your own study and learning more enjoyable by linking up with other students and organising study sessions together.
One of the exhilarating pleasures of starting college is the freedom that it affords. There will still be room for late nights and plenty of craic. It's just important not to lose the run of yourself.
Balance is the key. Get to know the inside of the library as well as the pub.
Health and wellbeing
Good diet, plenty of social support, staying active and keeping stress levels under control: all of these things need attention.
Avail of the supports in your university, stay linked with your family and friends.
And don't be timid about looking for help when you need it.
- Prof Sarah Moore is Associate Vice President, Academic at the University of Limerick.