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It's a whole new world ... but beware of the pitfalls

Welcome to your new life if you got a place in further education. Home or away, it's going to be a big adjustment.

There will be no one to get you up in the morning. Responsibility for study and projects will lie solely with you.

I remember trying to play catch-up when exams time came. It's not worth the stress. The key is time management. Some students may be on a grant or scholarship and for them it is especially vital to keep up to date.

We are talking a different type of academic pressure.

There won't be conventional homework and there won't be someone checking your work every day. Here's a tip - get to know your lecturers. They are human beings too and most appreciate you making an effort.

TUTORIALS

There will be tutors and assistants there to help you too. Make sure to make your tutorials. If you are lost in a big lecture they are the place to break things down.

College life is deceptive. You think you can postpone things because there is time to spare. But then you become involved in social activities, clubs, meeting new friends and suddenly there aren't enough hours.

There are other adjustments outside academic life. If you are living away from home you will have responsibility for your own cooking and cleaning.

You may be sharing a house with someone for the first time. Learn and understand tenancy agreements. Set your boundaries with housemates. Who pays for what, who cleans and when, parties, friends staying over - all these need to be addressed early.

You will learn the art of compromise if you're smart. And don't expect your roommate to be your best friend.

You may be homesick. How often should you ring or email home? Try to wean yourself off as best you can. It's vital to take the steps into independent adult living. You will feel fear, but remember, everyone does.

It's worth taking the risk of new relationships. You may be losing your best friend as you leave for college. You might be saying goodbye to a girlfriend or boyfriend.

But for every loss there's a potential gain. I met some of my best friends in college at a time when I thought I had lost them all.

Be careful with alcohol and drugs. You will meet both and the year can turn into a haze if you are not careful.

Some students play it smart - they know how much to take and they can get away with. Don't play by their rules and don't try to keep up with the heavy drinkers. Know your own limits.

The same applies to relationships and sexual intimacy. How far do you go? What's acceptable for you? Respect your body, mind and spirit and you will be okay.

Money needs respect. For those on a grant it's tempting to blow money when it comes in. But you have to budget.

If loneliness, depression or anxiety or any other issues arise, get help. Most third level and other institutions have welfare officers and counsellors.

So enjoy the new life and remember everything passes, good or bad.

Eamon Keane is a member of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors


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