10 things every fresher should know
From house-sharing to course work, some top tips for students starting college this year
So that first day at college is about to dawn. You made it, past the tedious hours of study, through the vagaries of the points system and got your place. Hallelujah! So why do your palms sweat and your stomach fill with butterflies every time you imagine yourself walking "on to campus" for the first time?
Relax, all around the country, thousands like you are feeling exactly the same. But just to set those nerves at ease, here are a few things you should know before you kiss mum and dad goodbye and head off to experience independent living for the first time.
How to study
Like it or not, that's why you're at college and you won't last very long unless you are able to organise your time to stay on top of your course work. So right from the beginning, set yourself a loose schedule and try and keep to it. If you miss a lecture, get the notes off another student that day as it doesn't take long to feel out of touch with the course. Check out the library early on – you'll find it is full of people getting their head into the books.
How to find accommodation
Many 'freshers' will have already found a place to stay but for the latecomers, check the small ads, the internet and the college website, advises Denise McCarthy, Welfare officer with Union of Students in Ireland.
"There are all types of accommodation, digs, self-catering, purpose built – the important thing is finding out what fits you. Ask 101 questions and don't be afraid to check the appliances work".
How to get along with your housemates
Yes, you have managed to live with your family for close to two decades but they didn't have a choice.
The people you live with now could become lifelong friends or sworn enemies. Agreeing a few basic house rules at the outset is less awkward than after the rot has already set in – so agree a rota for dirty dishes/loo cleaning and other chores. And don't leave your hair clogging up the sink.
How to cook
You'll always be popular if you can put together one or two simple, tasty meals (see related for recipes). Make sure to stock up at the beginning of term with store items like cooking spices, oils and flavourings and then buy the fresh ingredients on a weekly basis, says Denise. She advises choosing own-brand products and goods on special offer in large supermarkets.
Lorna Finnegan, Dublin City University's welfare officer warns against "falling into the routine of having nothing in the press so you spend a fortune on take-away pizza or in the local convenience store".
How to say no
For many students, college is the first time they are truly away from their parent's watchful gaze and it is a chance to experiment. But Denise advises being mindful about alcohol, drugs and sex. "We do not want to preach but don't feel pressured into doing something you are not comfortable with".
If you are sexually active, make sure you are safe from both the risk of pregnancy and disease. Think of the consequences and be wary of the ubiquitous presence of mobile phones – no one wants their "private" moment to go viral.
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How to say yes
University life is a great environment to explore who you are, what kind of people you like (or don't) and what you are passionate about. So take the chance to try lots of new activities.
Don't be the person who regrets not having a go at sky-diving, public speaking or whatever else you are asked to sign up for during Freshers' Week.
Always remember lots of other students are feeling just as self-conscious as you are, so just do it.
Denise advised freshers to 'like' the college and student union Facebook page as it will help them to stay in touch with what is going on.
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How to budget
Lorna suggests making a plan at the beginning of the week and setting aside a certain amount for "your one night out" or other anticipated expenses. The hard part is sticking to it.
Denise recommends checking Amazon or the students union for second-hand books and watching out for special offers on campus. Bringing a sandwich to college, buying stationery in cheaper outlets and cycling rather than taking the bus can all help to save those precious cents.
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How to stay safe
Lorna urges students not to walk home alone or to use dark, lonely shortcuts. She suggests making a pact with a friend that the two of you will head home together and advises against accepting drinks from strangers.
Denise reminds students not to hide keys in potted plants or under the mat as they are too obvious.
If you use a taxi alone, text the driver's number to a friend.
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How to ask for help
All Irish colleges offer an enormous range of supports and can help you if you are struggling financially, emotionally or otherwise with student life.
"If there is any kind of problem or worry, that is what the student union is for – it should be your 'go to' place for advice" says Lorna.
There is often a medical centre on campus too for physical problems. As Denise says: "College is so full of new experiences, but it can be so nerve-wracking too". Don't suffer in silence. Talk to someone.
Realise how lucky you are
Believe it or not, not everyone gets a chance to go to third-level study. You are about to embark on a fantastic, once in a lifetime opportunity, spending three or four years among your peers, trying out new ideas, both in the lecture hall and the college bar.
Savour it, learn from it and most of all, enjoy it.