Sunday 26 January 2020

In my Opinion: Christmas ­ a time to talk about college pressures

Dr Derek Byrne
Dr Derek Byrne

Dr Derek O'Byrne

'How's college going?" will be the first question many students will hear over Christmas when catching up with friends and family.

The truth is that some first-year students may find this question troubling as the Christmas recess is probably the first time the student has stepped away from the intensity of their study and contemplated whether they are enjoying the experience.

So what do you do if you are finding yourself having doubts about returning to college? First and foremost, it is important to have honest conversations with friends and family. It is also essential to understand the reason why you are not happy with the course, to have a realistic assessment of how it can be resolved, and to realise that such concerns are commonplace.

One common problem is that a student has been distracted or has struggled in the first semester and has performed poorly in examinations or assessments. This often leads to the student feeling discouraged from continuing their studies or feeling incapable of doing so.

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Colleges, however, offer many chances and supports for students who have fallen behind to catch up. By engaging with your college, you may find that you can address issues and progress more easily than you imagine. Before any final decision, make an appointment immediately after Christmas with the relevant support services in your college.

In some cases, we find a student is put off by the modules they have studied in the first semester without realising their foundational nature. Check what modules are coming up before judging the content of the course as appropriate or not to your interests. Often specialist, more interesting or challenging modules are later in the course. Or perhaps the issue has been one or two modules which may only be for one semester.

There will be students who don't want to return for a variety of legitimate reasons, such as they have decided they don't want to work in the field of study, they want or need to be closer to home or, indeed, may need to work full time.

It is common for career paths to change as the individual matures, so there is nothing unusual about wanting to redirect your study path. It is worth doing some research to ensure that the way you do it and its timing is most effective for you.

If you don't talk to people within your college, you may miss opportunities. Check what the de-registration policy says about fees and understand the impact different withdrawal dates may have on your eligibility for free State fees. Also check whether completing the year provides any additional opportunity, such as transferring to a different programme based on the credits you have earned or additional recognition for re-entry as a first year.

Dr Derek O'Byrne, Registrar and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Waterford Institute of Technology

Irish Independent

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