A Guide to Surviving Your First Year in College

As i start my second year of college i have found myself reflecting upon my experiences last year. Thinking back to my initial ideas of what college life what would consist of, I can honestly say it hasn’t quite been what I expected it to be. As a Leaving Cert student my newsfeed would be constantly filled with bright and colourful pictures of past school pupils out drinking every night, living college life like it was one big glamorous party. With college essentially starting with fresher’s week or in the case of some universities fresher’s fortnight it’s easy to see how first year students may get sucked into this idea, forgetting why they have really come to college, as fresher’s is basically a week of partying and socialising. However when reality sets in and believe me it will, you need to be ready to hit the ground running. To prepare you future students on what is to come, I’ve decided to comprise a basic guide on how to survive your first year in college, with everything you will need to know to get yourself through the year.

They say the first thing to hit you when you become a college student is independence, a newfound sense of freedom. That and the smell of vodka and cheap beer! The idea of leaving home and having to start afresh may seem daunting but an important thing to remember is that every other first year is in the same boat as you. College life is very different to the school routine you have spent the last five years of your life complaining about. There is no one telling you what to do or when to do it; no parents to tell you to get up, no school journal to be signed and no one chasing you for homework. The morning alarm does go off but there is no one checking to make sure you get up. This independence means turning it off and making sure you actually swing your dishevelled self out of bed and find the bathroom.

The most important factor to surviving college is finding the right balance of work, partying and napping. Here are a few simple pieces of advice to ensure that the scales of college life tip in your favour:

Coffee: Learn to love it! Whether you like it or not coffee will soon become one of many indispensable tools for surviving student life. Whether it will help you to start the day or finish it, in the case of those last-minute- late-night cramming sessions, coffee is a pre- requisite and will be a life saver once exams and assignments inevitably start to pile up.

Lectures: ATTEND THEM! Attending lectures is key. Unlike school, lectures occur on a much larger scale with a much larger audience. Assigned seats are a thing of the past and fighting for your seat like hyenas over a kill will become a more frequent occurrence. Lecture halls fill quickly and soon no space remains but the no man’s land that is the dreaded front row.

Late nights and nine o clock starts do not mix well and it is understandably difficult to drag yourself out of bed and crawl into college like a zombie with a hangover that Lindsey Lohan would be proud of. However to succeed in college one must perfect this art form as taking notes is vital for assignments. There is no one chasing you for that elusive essay, that piece of brilliance you know is inside, but rather a deadline that spells failure!

Correspondence: If you have a question or query about something don’t be afraid to email your lecturer, tutor or mentor to inquire about it. Chances are if you’re unsure of something someone else is too and the relevant person will appreciate being informed on the issue. This is something I was late to discover but once I did I found things became so much easier. Emails are provided for the majority of staff at universities for a reason, to make them accessible to students, so finding a solution your problems is literally just the click of a button away!

Budget: The biggest problem for many students starting college is money. We all start off promising to live on fifty euro a week, though so few seem to manage it. I admit in my first week to blowing almost three weeks’ worth of budget on things I did not need and now do not want. Getting a job will help but in college money vanishes daily without any proof you had any in the first place. Receipts will become a thing of the past, aside from those found in your purse the morning after a night on the town! While some of you will start with savings, give it a few months and funds will have run dry. There are of course ways to save money, bargain hunting will become a sport and coupons your new secret weapon as the novelty of takeaway food wears off and food shopping becomes a weekly regular, unenjoyable yet necessary chore.

Like me, you’ll find your first year in college will fly and before you know it you’ll find yourself faced with end of year exams. Keep on top of things throughout the year and you’ll find that revising comes easier to you and that despite the raging hangovers, late night cramming sessions and last minute assignments jobs that you just may have learned something! College is about having fun, but it is also about work, something often overlooked in the first few months as students get caught up in the hectic lifestyle and night scene that accompanies it. College is about now but it is also about the future, your future. It allows you to shape it into something exciting, it allows you to realise your dreams and make them a reality. It’s an experience. Live it, love it and learn from it!

5 thoughts on “A Guide to Surviving Your First Year in College

  1. Great reflection on your first year at college Katherine! Also great tips for new students starting out – it can definitely be daunting starting university or college! We will definitely be sharing with our followers.


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