Top tips for freshers looking ahead to life in college

Top tips for freshers looking ahead to life in college

Members of the Students Union at UCC, hosting the college’s first Consent Awareness Week to tackle sexual assault issues, featuring a week of talks and webinars aimed at education and prevention of sexual assault. It was organised after a Union of Students Ireland (USI) survey. Some 29% of female, 10% of male, and 28% of non-binary students have experienced non-consensual penetration by incapacitation, force, or threat of force during their time in college, according to the USI and NUI Galway Sexual Experiences Survey.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have changed the face of education in Ireland over the past two years or so.

However, it should not dampen the excitement and anticipation of entering third level education for the first time.

Lecture halls, tutorials and laboratories, clubs and societies, social events - it’s a whole new world out there.

While it’s an exciting new opportunity for first year students attending third level education for the first time, it can also lead to a lot of questions and concerns.

In many cases, freshers are leaving home for the first time, saying goodbye to secondary school friends and their hometown or village. You’re moving to a big city and may have questions and concerns in terms of college expectations, supports and more.

It’s only natural, as with any big transition!

With that in mind, Dr Dan Collins, Academic Administration and Student Affairs Manager at Munster Technological University (MTU), set out some advice for freshers ahead of taking the leap into third level education.

“The college experience facilitates students to launch themselves into adult life,” explained Dr Collins.

“While there are challenges in attending higher education, there are also great opportunities for development and enjoying the experience.

“Attend your induction and orientation,” he advised. “Get to know your campus, orientate yourself to where you will spend the next four years as a student.

“Start on the first day with a commitment to attending all your lectures, classes and tutorials, and get to know your lecturers and engage actively with them,” he added.

“Make friends with your classmates, share notes, cooperate with projects and support one another.

“Support one another during the first number of weeks and months – many will become your best and lifelong friends.” Dr Collins also highlighted the importance of getting involved in the extra-curricular activities at your chosen third level institute.

“Get involved with clubs, societies, the Students Union and other student centric groups on campus,” he said.

“Avail of the various support services which are available to you, including careers, counselling, medical, and pastoral care among others.” Let’s take a look at those pearls of wisdom in greater detail.

1) Attend your orientation 

It might seem like a trivial thing but orientation is hugely important. It allows you to get a feel for the campus itself, where your classes will take place and it even gives you the opportunity to meet your new classmates. With that in mind, attend your orientation - it’s the best way to kick start your college journey!

2) Commit to process

College is a tricky time full of distractions and change so it’s important to commit to your course and your learning experience. There’s plenty of time outside of class to enjoy extra-curricular activities, attend social events and more. But you’re in college for a reason - to come out with a degree after extending your educational background. Like Dr Collins said, commit to attending your lectures, tutorials and other class events.

3) Engage with your lecturers and fellow classmates

 Actively engaging with your lecturers and classmates will hold you in good stead for the duration of your degree and college journey. Chatting to lecturers and getting to know them will ensure you’re not afraid to ask questions should you misunderstand an assignment, and it’ll give you a good platform for receiving feedback on assignments, and engaging on future projects. Getting to know your classmates will also prove invaluable as college is a collaborative forum where you’ll be working together on projects, presentations and assignments. As Dr Collins said, many of these may become lifelong friends so be sure to put yourself out there and get to know them!

4) Support your fellow freshers 

Going to college for the first time can be a tricky experience. It can mean you’re leaving your home for the first time, leaving the friends you went to secondary school with and branching out on your own. This can leave you feeling homesick, lonely and worried. That’s all perfectly natural. It is hugely important that you support your fellow freshers and that they support you. Whether it’s classmates, housemates or a person asking for advice or directions in the library, think kindness. People can struggle after they first move away to attend college - it’s big, bright, new and scary. Supporting those around you will make the experience and transition easier for them and you.

5) Get involved

 College campuses are a hive of activity, buzzing with clubs, societies and social events. Getting involved in the sports, clubs or societies that interest you is a great way of making new friends and representing your college at national events. Whether it’s soccer, GAA, chess, trampolining, music, drama or politics, you’ll find something for you! As well as providing great hobbies during your college years, being in a club or society gives you the opportunity to let your interests run wild. It also looks great on a CV as you’ll be viewed as a team player that contributes!

6) Avail of student supports and services 

There are a wide range of supports and services available to students on college campuses across Ireland so don’t be afraid to use them. If it’s help with an assignment you’re looking for, academic skills are on hand. If it’s mental health support you’re seeking, student counselling services are there. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. College is a hugely collaborative environment and you’ll find the support you need.

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