| 12.4°C Dublin

Get involved in activities and never miss a Monday – Top tips for your first year at university


It is important to set goals and take control of your learning. Stock image

It is important to set goals and take control of your learning. Stock image

Catherine O'Connor

Catherine O'Connor


It is important to set goals and take control of your learning. Stock image

I can best summarise the tips and advice I can give to any student in starting your journey of change with the simple words: Never miss a Monday.

These are words of advice given to me by my father as I made my debut into the working world, many decades ago.

In this article I hope to share the impact of these wise words and why I think they sum up the very essence of growth and development, core to the success of every Leaving Certificate graduate embarking on a path of study or work.

The topics and areas discussed in the book include how the university system works, and the main differences between the second and third-level systems; the fears and expectations of student; managing finances; living at home and away from home; and dealing with diversity.

It identifies the skills required to navigate the college system successfully such as: managing time, setting goals, team working and learning, thinking critically and analytically, adapting both socially and academically, making new friends and the sense of belonging this brings.

Set your own achievable goals, monitor your progress, seek feedback and reward yourself when the work is done

I want to turn my attention to the more commonly overlooked bigger issues such as the challenges that students will face as they try to recalibrate post-Covid and re-enter a world that had the doors shut for over two years of their formative early adult social engagement and exposure.

Taking Ownership

Going to college is about becoming informed, taking control, ownership and responsibility. Be your own driver. Read your handbooks, emails, familiarise yourself with the geographical and virtual campus, set your own achievable goals, monitor your progress, seek feedback and reward yourself when the work is done.

You choose how you want to work, when and where. It’s important to develop good routines. It’s up to you to choose and all choices, good and bad, have consequences.

Take control – every day. Use the many services provided for you. Get involved in activities. Consistency is key in all that you do.

Dealing with anxiety

Anxiety hits us all at some point in life but it’s the level at which we experience it that affects how we think and interact with others as we carry out our daily lives.

Anxiety can be mild or severe, it can leave you feeling helpless, in a state of fear, fear of failure, fear of making friends, fear of fitting in, fear of failing examinations. What’s most important is to recognise when you need help.

College services are there for your use and the professionals working there have seen and heard it all. Remember it’s OK to reach out and seek that help. Better to get it before things get out of hand.


Events happen throughout life that we have little control over. Your college years will test your ability to recover and bounce back from unforeseen challenges and difficulties.

A good network of friends provides a crutch in difficult times. Tutoring services are made available to all students. Find out all you can about these services during your orientation and take note of where to find them.

Adapting to the journey of change can be difficult for many but remember most students feel the same way. Adopt positive people who will enrich your life.

It is important to remember that failure will present in some guise along your journey and while such an experience may be overwhelming, it’s the learning we take from the experience that helps us to flourish rather than flounder.

Looking after self

Your well-being is very important. Life has thrown all generations a big blow during the pandemic. It is vital to take responsibility for ‘self’ which includes: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and interpersonal communication.

Every day we wake there is opportunity. Opportunity doesn’t sleep

Good routines in sleep and eating habits, together with a healthy approach to exercise, will yield positive and consistent results.

Mobility and employability are vital in our new world and as we face the increasing challenges of climate change, social and political unrest. You will need to take advantage of all opportunity to embrace cultural diversity, engaging in language learning and developing new and transferable skills.

Every day we wake there is opportunity. Opportunity doesn’t sleep. It comes in different shapes and guises and means different things to different people. Recognising opportunity and seeking to bring it to full advantage makes us more mobile, employable and above all contributing citizens.

Maybe after reading this, you might look at life through a different lens, register on a different note and see and recognise those opportunities when they come your way.

If you have a reason to smile any day, try to hold on to that smile for the whole day.

Never Miss a Monday or for that matter, a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday…


Catherine O'Connor

Catherine O'Connor

Catherine O'Connor

Catherine O’Connor is an education consultant. She worked in Trinity College Dublin for 25 years.

She is co-author of Surviving your first year at university – A student toolkit available from McGraw Hill, at Easons, Amazon /Kindle and at bookshops and libraries worldwide.

Catherine is available for motivational talks to parent and student groups nationwide, see catherineoconnor.ie

Related topics

Most Watched