College can be terrifying but it's rarely dull - so immerse yourself in your new-found freedom
Published 20/08/2016 | 02:30
If you got your Leaving Cert results last week, you're currently in one of the most frightening limbos of your education. You are in that unique place between school and college, unsure of where you're going next.
As you wait on the college offers on Monday from the Central Applications Office (CAO), remember first of all how much work you have put in to get to where you are. The Leaving Cert is probably the most challenging set of exams you will ever face. Being finished is an achievement in itself.
Now you have to move on to the next stage.
People often say that college is the best time of your life, and they're not lying. It is one of the most freeing experiences you will ever go through. It is the first step on a ladder to adulthood.
It is exciting, but it is also terrifying - for all the right reasons.
For those of you starting college this September, you are about to enter into an extraordinary period of your life, so it's important that you enjoy it.
Going to college takes a lot of courage. For most 18-year-olds, it's the biggest upheaval of your lives so far. It often means leaving the family home for the first time.
But it will also give you an unprecedented level of freedom. Moving to a new city to go to college allows you to reinvent yourself in whatever way you see fit. You can be whoever you want to be. It will come as an enormous relief to many teenagers who feel oppressed in small towns across the country.
So give college your all. Put yourself out there. Be brave. Talk to everybody. Go on nights out, and have fun. But don't just limit yourself to alcohol. Get involved in your college life. There are so many societies, clubs, and various opportunities for you to grow and have new experiences.
There is a society for almost every hobby, interest or sport you want to take up. Or if you fancy your chances at being a politician one day, you can always get involved in pretend politics - otherwise known as the students' union.
It's not just about socialising and having fun either. Too often, the narrative we hear is of students drinking too much and getting into trouble.
Doing stupid things will be an important part of your college experience - how else are you going to learn who you are? But you also will have a degree to complete, and it's worth paying attention to it.
Your degree can be just as freeing as the social opportunities college presents you with. Whether it's studying Jane Austen's novels or learning human anatomy, college is about gaining understanding and knowledge.
It is a completely different experience to secondary school, where rote learning is the focus. You will be used to learning off poems for your English exams, or even worse: learning off essays to replicate them in your Leaving Cert.
That kind of learning is done away with in college, and you will have to dedicate time to really understanding your subject.
Education is one of the most freeing things of all, and the right to have one is constantly under threat.
Student fees in Ireland are currently the second highest in Europe. Young people are increasingly being pushed out of education and stripped of their opportunity to learn.
So be grateful for the opportunity you are about to enter into. College may be terrifying, but it's also rarely dull. So throw yourselves in, because it truly is the most freedom you will probably ever have.