A Grad’s Guide to college
College can be some of the most educational, frustrating, funny and stressful times of a young person’s life. The 3 to 4 years you spend at university can be a great learning opportunity to mature and grow as a person. With all that being said it can also cause a lot of stress and anxiety. If you’re a new college student, enjoy a college veteran’s guide to surviving college and most importantly getting your degree. I myself could have done with some pointers when I started my degree.
Enjoy the following guide filled with tips and tricks.
Choose a course you’re actually interested in
Often young people go with choices that they are not actually interested in. Picking options they think are career safe and even sometimes only choose what their parents want them to do. The societal pressure to have a good paying and “serious” job is immense on young people. Many incoming students don’t choose subjects and courses they are actually passionate about, which is a mistake. It is so important to pick a course that you know you will like, if you love history and arts do not choose a course that has nothing to do with those subjects. Choosing a course that you don’t have a real passion for leads to the risk of either dropping out or failing.
Research your modules
This brings us to my next point, which is to research in depth your modules that are taught for the course you wish to choose. Often the modules offered under a course name can be very different to what you may expect from the course title itself.
From my own experience, I initially chose Law and French to study as my undergraduate degree. I loved the language when I was in secondary school, however studying at university was different as a lot of it was history and cultural studies in French rather than learning the actual language in terms of tenses, verbs and grammar. This caused me to then drop French and pick up a different subject!
A great way to avoid this is to research your modules, not only what will be taught but how it will be taught as it can save you time and money.
A great way to make friends and get involved with your college overall is to join one of the many clubs and societies that are offered. There are societies and clubs for film fans, sports clubs, and language societies. You name it there is something for one of your interests. In DCU the societies and clubs usually cost €2 to join and have weekly meetings.
Not only is it important to get involved in the social aspect of college, it is important to get involved in the classroom. Don’t be scared to speak up when you know an answer or to get involved in class discussions and debates. I guarantee if you don’t you’ll regret it. Another tip is, get involved in your group work if you’re assigned a project, don’t leave it to one person!
Be confident in your abilities and speak up for yourself. If you’re someone who suffers from social anxiety checkout Jigaw.
This can be difficult for those who are a little less organised and suffer from the plight that is procrastination. To save yourself the stress, try to stay on top of your readings for lectures and start assignments ASAP. It’s surprising how much stress you can save yourself if you keep on top of your work. Try not to skip out on seminars and tutorials as they are a great way to get to understand your subject or topic in greater detail. These classes allow you to have a more intimate class with lecturers.
The college week can feel expensive if you’re not managing your money wisely. As a student be sure to avail or the benefits of being one! For example, you can get a student leap card for travelling in and out of college which will cut travel expenses. A big tip would be bringing in your lunch; I loved buying lunch and coffees on campus but it really starts to make a dent in your bank account. All those lunches could amount to a nice savings which could be used for a holiday or rainy day.
Being a student also gives you access to a number of discounts in shops, restaurants and more. Another tip is having a reusable coffee cup and water bottle; it will save you the cost of buying bottles of water and many campuses offer a discount on teas and coffees if you bring your own cup. It’s not only the cheaper option but it is also a sustainable one. As a student make sure to use the facilities offered in college; joining a college gym is cheaper than a regular gym.
Check out UNiDays to browse the discounts available for students.
Online learning is a relatively new thing for a lot of students, due to the recent pandemic. It’s important to get used to your technology. Look up tutorials on how to use zoom and online learning platforms such as your college moodle or loop. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to your lecturer or fellow students if you are lost in setting up zoom and online learning from home. It’s new and different for everyone, so you’re not alone!
It’s also important to have a well working laptop and charger as more than likely students will be using it a lot. Students can also download Office 365 which has Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel for free. These are all great for doing assignments.
- Check out this article, Returning to college during a pandemic – Babylon
How to avoid plagiarism
Plagiarism is taking someone else’s work and presenting it as your own. Plagiarism is something that isn’t taken lightly in university. That being said, it can be easy to innocently mess up referencing in an assignment and accidentally plagiaries someone else’s work. A trick to avoid this is use free referencing sites such as
These sites allow you to choose your referencing format such as Harvard, OSCOLA or APA and references the work you enter into it automatically and correctly for you. Using these online tools can help guide students in their referencing.
If you have the choice of an Erasmus or exchange study if it is offered on your course, I urge you to do it. Doing an Erasmus can be one the best experiences you’ll have in college and maybe even your life. Going on an Erasmus can allow you to emerge yourself in a different culture, meet new people and learn to live independently. It’s a great chance to learn new skills, and grow as a person and student. I was fortunate enough to be able to go to Denmark for a year, and it was one of the best opportunities and experiences I’ve had so far.
If the choice of an Erasmus or exchange study is offered on your course, I urge you to do it. Doing an Erasmus can be one the best experiences you’ll have in college and maybe even your life. Going on a Erasmus can allow you to emerge yourself in a different culture, meet new people and learn to live independently. It’s a great chance to learn new skills, and grow as person and student. I was fortunate enough to be able to do to Denmark for a year, and it was one of the best opportunities and experiences I’ve had so far.
Going on nights out and enjoying drinks at the Uni bar can be so much fun and a great way to let off steam after a stressful week of classes. It’s also not too hard on your bank as on campus drinks are super cheap compared to bars in the city. You can get cans of Heineken or Jack Slats for just €3/3.50. It’s important to have fun but know your limit; having killer hangovers during the week can really affect your attention span and will to study, or even get out of bed.
It’s very important to note that being friendly and respectful to the staff in college bars goes a long way; the last thing you want is to get barred from your own Uni pub! The staff do have the power to both kick you out and ban you, and that’s the last thing any first year wants.
A special tip from me to you: If you think you’re going to go to your next class when you stop in for a pint and food in between classes with your friends, you are more than likely lying to yourself. I guarantee you won’t make it to that next class…
Try not to stress too much during your college years, at times it can be stressful , but try not to take it too seriously. It’s not the be all and end all . Most importantly try your best and have fun.
I hope this guide helps learning the ropes of college a tad easier!