So you’ve managed to survive the hell that was the Leaving Cert., and
scraped the bare minimum points achieved your dream 625 points for your second first choice. Know what that means? You’re going to college! And while you may have some expectations of what life will bring you for the next three to four years, from the countless films like American Pie and High School Musical, to your parents and teachers giving you never-ending lectures about how things will change next year, there are some things that no one warns you about when preparing you for your new life ahead of you. However, these have been kindly compiled into a list by yours truly, so you will be a much smarter First Year than I was.
1. There is life after the Leaving Cert.
Contrary to what you have been hearing the past two years, the Leaving Cert. and its minions the points, are not the be all and end all. Your results do not determine your future. Once Results Day and its resulting hangover (pun not intended) comes and goes, there is little talk of points after the C.A.O offers. In college, it is almost non-existent. Once you are in your lectures, you quickly learn how everything you spent the last two years cramming is to be forgotten, including how to write. Microsoft Word becomes your new best friend. Referencing becomes your enemy. And when you are struggling to reach your minimum word count on an essay, you wonder how you were able to waffle so much about Sedimentary rocks back in the day.
2. Self-learning is a real, actual thing.
Remember when teachers in school would tell you how lucky you are to be spoon-fed, and you laughed at that because you definitely weren’t being spoon-fed? How wrong you were, my friend. It is only when you have an exam based on module that consisted of 6 lectures, that you realise how much help teachers gave you. The lecturers in college do not spell things out for you, they don’t care if you keep up or not. They just come, talk for 45 minutes and leave again. The rest is up to you…
3. College teaches the things you need to know.
Aside from furthering your academic understanding of the work of Joyce, college life teaches the fundamental skills to survive adult life. It is here that you will learn the real life lessons, like getting the bus so much you know the timetable. It teaches you how to budget, and survive on precisely on 7.50 a week. It helps you to achieve that acquired taste for typical adult things, like Tesco vodka and 4 euro Aldi wine. All things necessary for adulthood survival.
4. The transition may not be easy.
Settling into college life and making friends may not come as easily as it does in the films. You could find someone on Orientation Day and have found your soul-mate, in friend form. Or, you could still be floating around after Christmas waiting to make a friend. Everyone reacts differently to the change. Don’t be disheartened if your friends from school seem to be moving on without you. Everyone is in the same boat, some might just be better at rowing. But you’ll learn, and you’ll catch up. Just give it time.
5. Procrastination becomes your #1 hobby.
With college comes great responsibility. Responsibility to keep up on top of the readings, the tutorials … the current season of Pretty Little Liars. With so many gaps in your timetable, it is inevitable that you become 10x lazier than you were in September. You can try and fight the urge, you think, “I started school every day at nine o’clock for the last six years, I can do this”. The reality is, most times you can’t. If attendance isn’t mandatory or you have more than five hours, most time Netflix or bed gets picked over lectures and assignments.
6. College has a more open environment.
While the campus of UCD may not bare an exact resemblance to that of Troy Bolton’s beloved East High, it shares many similar qualities. There may not be (as many) spontaneous outbreaks of song and dance as there were in High School Musical in everyday college life, but it has to be said that college is not as oppressive as Secondary School is. Let’s face it, the majority of us in school tended to follow the crowd. It was easy, and an easy way to avoid being judged for being “different”. In college, that totally disappears. The environment is much more open, with people dressing and acting however they want. You always wanted to dye your hair violet? Wear a kilt? Use roller-blades as a legitimate form of transport? Then more power to you. Go for it! No one here will judge, only be jealous of your roller-blading skills.
The jump from school to college is a big one. It’s a scary one, but it is worth it in the end. And you are now fully equipped to make that jump. Good luck!