There is something about the promise of a new academic term which brings an air of excitement. Maybe it’s the feeling of starting fresh, or the anticipation of what the college year ahead might bring. It’s infectious. It’s been years since I last attended post-secondary education, but I still feel invigorated each September.

Over the next eight months, students – whether they will be attending college, taking a gap year or starting a hands-on apprenticeship – will be presented with a diverse range of opportunities. They will meet new people with unique perspectives. They will expand their knowledge of the world around them and within their chosen subjects. And they will experience a new form of independence; a rite of passage for any young adult leaving their nest of comfort and security.

This is scary and exciting all at once – and it’s worth every challenge that might be found along the way.

And we know there will be challenges. On page 24, I speak with student and government representatives regarding the student accommodation crisis and what is being done to ensure our post-secondary students are able to learn in a secure and safe environment. Without access to affordable student housing, much of that all-important on-campus experience can be lost.

After several years of pandemic life, and between housing problems and the increased cost of living, it feels as though we are doing our students – our future problem-solvers - a serious disservice when it comes to prioritising their education.

But for every problem a student may face, there is support available to them. I asked our resident Guidance Counsellor, Eoin Houlihan, the biggest concerns he encounters each day from prospective college students. He says the most common worries he addresses with students are relatable to us all:

“Will I fit in and make friends?”

“Will I enjoy my course and keep up with the work?”

“It’s so different from the Leaving Certificate that some students get a bit of a shock when faced with the new learning style,” he says. “Time management, sleeping and eating habits are also a challenge and it can take time for a new student to settle in. For some, homesickness is a factor.”

On page 23, Eoin provides readers with a well-rounded list of available supports to students attending college for the first time.

At the time of writing, CAO results have not yet been released. The lateness of the 2022 results has intensified the worry of prospective students, who will have little time to organise accommodation and finances once they receive acceptance offers.

I recently spoke with the dean of agriculture at UCD’s School of Agriculture and Food Science, Professor Frank Monahan. I asked him what message he would send to incoming students.

“It is a challenging time, but [I would say] to be calm,” he says. “There are a lot of supports here for them – the student advisors, the accommodation office, the school office; there are many people who are willing to talk. We appreciate it is very tight with the delay in releasing results, so the message is: we are here to support as much as possible, and offer as much flexibility as we can.”

Frank’s message is echoed in every page of this Going to College Guide. Don’t be afraid to ask for support; don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be active in class. Get to know your professors and instructors. Take every opportunity to travel and gain new experience. Don’t forget about your responsibilities – but don’t forget to have the time of your life, either.

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