Greg O’Donoghue, Vice President of National College of Ireland’s Students’ Union shares his tips for students starting college.
Feeling nervous about starting college? Most people are, so you’re not alone. Greg O’Donoghue, Vice President of National College of Ireland’s Students’ Union, recently wrote a piece for the Sunday Independent on his top tips for settling into college life. We are delighted to share them below.
1. Attend orientation. Don’t be tempted to give it a miss because it’s a great introduction to your new college – and to other students, too. It’s designed to help you settle in and you’ll feel more confident after you’ve taken part. You’ll also know your way about the campus, where to go for lunch and where the library is, which will make life a lot easier.
2. Introduce yourself! I remember on my first day I was shy and nervous about speaking to people. But don’t forget that everyone is in the same boat – no matter how confident they seem to be. I talked to my classmates and went to every Students’ Union night out, and before I knew it I had lots of new friends.
3. Find the right balance. It’s an exciting time - you have a new routine, new hobbies and new friends, and you want to experience everything college has to offer. But you don’t need to experience it all in week one. Try not to take on too much at once – studying and partying are both part of the student experience, but try to strike an equal balance. This leads me nicely to…
4. Attend your lectures. Yawn, yes, I know, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t and how quickly you can fall behind. It’s not like school – nobody is going to be pressuring you to go to class or hit the books. Putting things off can be tempting but it’s the worst habit you can get into. Start as you mean to go on and give the academic side of things your best shot.
5. Learn to budget. On top of managing your study schedule and your social life, managing your finances is another big challenge. I studied accountancy but believe me that didn’t make it any easier! Budgeting is tough but essential if you want your funds to stretch. Work out how much you need for essentials like rent, travel, books and food and divide up whatever’s left – that’s what you have to play with.
6. Get involved with your Student Union. It was one of the best decisions I made and is a brilliant way to make new friends, or to get advice or support. All students get automatic membership but then it’s up to you to actively take part – go to events and nights out, sign up for activities and have fun discovering new things.
7. Sign up for a club or society - or set up your own. The possibilities are endless, from surfing to fashion, football or dance. At NCI, I ran the Winter Sports Club which was a brilliant experience. It kept me fit and let me take some great trips away but most importantly, I met great people with the same interests as I have.
8. Healthy body, healthy mind. Diet and exercise are so important to how you feel. Make sure you have a balanced regime, try to get a decent night’s kip, don’t go mad on the drink and look after your mental health, too. College can be pretty stressful at times so try not to let things get on top of you and if you feel overwhelmed, talk to someone – whether that’s a mate, someone in Student Services or the college counsellor.
9. Find out what supports are on offer. There’s a whole range of initiatives in place to support first years so take advantage of them – they can range from mentoring programmes to study skills to time management and mathematics support. It’s all free and it will help you with your course. Financial support is also available under certain circumstances. No harm in asking!
10. Lastly - relax, and enjoy the experience! Over the next few years you will make lifelong friends, have unforgettable experiences and work towards a qualification that will stand to you for the rest of your life. I’m graduating this year and I already wish I could do it all over again.
If you find college life getting on top of you there are a number of support services available at NCI so do familiarise yourself with them. We've also put together some tips on managing stress for students.
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