Throughout the 2023-24 academic year, students will grapple with financial uncertainties, accommodation hurdles and the disappointment associated with course preferences. Fear not, though, as Irish Country Living’s Education guide offers guidance and support around these key issues.

On page 17 I outline financial supports, schemes and loans available to students. Lorcan Roche Kelly offers advice for accommodation seekers (due to the current accommodation crisis, this is providing a lot of stress and unease for students, page 23) and guidance counsellor Sinead Delaney offers support for students who were unhappy with their leaving cert results.

It is also important to note college is not for everyone and there are many alternative routes to education now available (which I outline on page 20).

It wasn’t that long ago I was preparing for college life, and I remember the feelings of apprehension, but also excitement and enthusiasm. It’s the start of new beginnings and your early adult years, so make sure to embrace it all.

Put yourself out there

Say yes to everything. I have to admit, when I was in college I probably didn’t get involved in as many extracurricular activities as I should have. If there is a sport you always wanted to try or a club/society you are interested in, why not give it a go? College is a great time to do it.

There are also so many opportunities that come with college courses – there are different travel bursaries available, placement opportunities and mentorship programmes. Class reps and volunteers are always wanted and it looks great on the CV, so look into some volunteer opportunities too.

Getting the right supports

One thing I wish I had discovered earlier was the free support available to students. Most colleges offer writing and maths help and provide other learning supports for students who are struggling academically.

If you are finding particular modules hard or need support, talk to your lecturers. There are also student unions, student centres and career centres on campus to help with other issues you may run into. If you have any problems during your college time, talk to someone and find the right supports.

Advice for accommodation

If you are moving away from home, it is a good idea to try and get student accommodation, particularly if you don’t know anyone else in your course or college. Most people in student accommodation don’t know each other, and it is a very sociable atmosphere. Remember, your friends and family at home are only a phone call away, so stay in touch with them too.

Don’t be afraid to add a personal touch to your living environment. This will make it feel like a home. Bring up your own bed sheets, some photos, and different items you have in your room at home that make you feel comfortable. Try to keep your living space clean as you will most likely be studying in it too.

Tips for commuting

Due to the current cost of accommodation, more students are having to commute to college. It can be very difficult if you are driving long distances or stuck in rush-hour traffic. Although I lived in Dublin, it was still an hour’s commute for me across town to UCD. I learned to be prepared the night before with clothes, food and college materials at the ready. This allows you to get up and on the road more quickly in the mornings. There might be other students driving in your direction, so if public transport is limited it’s a good idea to carpool, if possible (this also cuts down on fuel costs).

Making Friends

The easiest way to make friends is to sign up for clubs and societies. In most colleges during fresher’s week there is an area on the campus with representatives from different clubs and societies. You should also get involved in one of the social sports teams – even if you haven’t played that sport before, most people will be beginners.

Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people sitting beside you in lectures. Remember, everyone is in the same boat and is just as nervous as you. I didn’t know anyone in my year, but after talking to a few people the first week I slowly began to make friends. After all, you have a lot in common with your classmates already, having chosen the same career path.

Saying yes to organised social groups (during fresher’s week, particularly), joining group chats and going for coffees and lunches between lectures will all help.

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