Surviving the first year at college - how to ensure your studies are both profitable and fun

WITH 15 to 25pc of students dropping out at the end of first year, depending on colleges and courses, it is clear that the move to third level can be difficult.

The difficulties can be academic, emotional and social.

Here are five tips to help you get through that challenging first year:

1. Take time to adjust.

It takes time to get used to the move from the second-level system, in which you are closely monitored, to a third level system which leaves you largely to your own devices.

Don't despair if it takes you a couple of months to figure out how to handle life and learning in this new setting. However confident and assured everyone else may look, you can be sure you are not the only person in the lecture hall baffled by this new system.

Talk out your problems with other students and learn from those who seem positive about the experience.

2. Watch out for perfectionism.

If you find yourself falling behind or feeling overwhelmed, consider whether you are being a perfectionist.

Perfectionism is the enemy of effort. Perfectionists fail either to start projects or to finish them because they fear that what they produce will be less than 100pc perfect.

You probably don't have to study every book or cover every aspect of your chosen subjects and you most certainly do not have to score 100pc at anything.

3. Don't be on your own.

If you are shy or introverted, consider joining a few of the clubs and associations to be found in colleges.

You don't have to be the life and soul of the party but you also don't have to spend all your time in your room.

Shy people find this hard to believe but the quiet ones are often liked by more outgoing people. One tip: introverted people tend to compare themselves to the most out-going people they know and they despair of bridging the gap. You would do better to compare yourself to the average person among your acquaintances.

4. If you're on the wrong course it isn't the end of the world.

It isn't unusual to realise during first year that you are on the wrong course.

If this is how you feel, get advice from tutors and friends. Consider your motivations: did you pick the wrong course or are you just scared of the work involved? If you really picked the wrong course, work out what you want to do instead and talk to your parents.

5. Have a gallop.

When cattle are let out of the shed where they have been kept for the winter they hightail it through the fields. After being released from school, third level students like to go for a good gallop too. Fun is a basic human need so enjoy your gallop -- just try to come to a halt near a lecture hall.

Padraig O'Morain is accredited as a counsellor by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy