The real fun begins now
It's only been a couple of months, but second level school and the Leaving Cert feel like a lifetime ago. In recent hours, you've either been online or opened the post from the CAO and been offered a place in college. So, what happens next?
Now, that you've decided to accept your place in third level, the real fun starts. The first two items on your agenda should be: 1) checking if you qualify for a grant, and 2) sorting out where you are going to live.
For any student starting college, moving away from home for the first time is a big step. Finding suitable accommodation is fundamental to the college experience and one of the key questions asked by every student is, should I live with strangers or with friends?
When I began college at UCD in 2004, I was the only person from my class that went there. This seemed like a huge negative at the time but this couldn't have been further from the truth.
By moving in with strangers, I was forced to make new friends and this helped me to get the most out of my college experience. Remember that most colleges now offer some form of on-campus accommodation and this can be a particularly handy option for getting that extra five minutes in bed in the mornings!
If you aren't going to live on campus -- have a look at www.daft.ie for advice on renting or sharing.
So now that you've checked if you qualify for a grant and you have got your accommodation sorted, the next thing you have to do is pay the Student Services Charge of €1,500 (if you receive a grant,this will be paid on your behalf).
Welcome to being a third-level student, you'll now have a student card and this enables you to get student discounts on a variety of things, from nightclub entry to haircuts and everything in between.
College is probably going to be nothing like you expected it to be and one thing I can assure you is that it's definitely nothing like secondary school. Over the coming weeks, you will be contacted by your college to give you information about orientation -- this may take place over a few days or a week depending on your college.
For the first few weeks make sure you go to all of your lectures, tutorials, labs etc as it is often in these lectures that the key information for the module will be set out.
Make sure you go on the campus tour to find out where the library is (you'll need to know this coming up to exam time), where the Students' Union is, where your lectures will take place and where all the campus facilities like banks, ATM machines, shops, sports pitches etc. are located.
During the first few weeks, there are two things that are a certainty -- you will definitely be hassled by banks, gyms etc to sign for membership and you will get lost numerous times. Don't be afraid to ask for directions or advice.
The key to college life is that you will get back exactly what you put into it -- so take up a new sport, join a couple of college societies and try something that you've never done before.
The next three or four years will probably be the best, action packed, fun filled -- but also the most stressful -- years of your life. But bear in mind that you can drop into your Students' Union at anytime and they'll be happy to help.
Best of luck
- Gary Redmond is president of the Union of Students in Ireland