So this is the first time in EIGHTEEN YEARS that I’m not returning to full-time education. Yes, someone out there thinks that it’s a good idea for me to fend for myself in the real world. Hilarious, right? I’m nowhere equipped for it so to ignore the loud noise of unemployment, I’ve decided to pop up a few tips that got me through that first week of classes.
1) A good laptop
Ah yes, the old PC vs Mac debate. Look, get whatever brand you want but bear in mind, it needs to be durable enough to get you through most of your three/four years, and light enough to carry around campus all day.
I went through a Dell (about a dozen bricks) and a HP (about half a dozen bricks with a touch screen) before settling on my Macbook Pro and I wouldn’t choose anything else. It’s light, it’s just the right size to slip into my handbag and backpack, and it even fit into my Michael Kors back that everyone had in 2014 (RIP trying to be original).
Don’t be daunted by Apple though. You may look around a lecture hall and see just a wave of lit-up Apple logos but the brand doesn’t matter. As I said, as long as it’s reliable and portable, there’s not much more you need.
Personal tip: If you’re interested in getting involved in any of the publications in college, get Photoshop and InDesign, and familiarise yourself with WordPress. These are vital if you want to get anywhere.
2) The notebook
If you’re looking for something more than just the typical Easons’ refill pad, TK Maxx do very nice ones for half the price you’d pay in Paperchase or anywhere else but it’s a bit of a lottery as to what you might get. Muji on Chatham St in Dublin is also the place for any minimal-style stationery needs, except you may rack up quite a bill there.
3) Take it Easy
Don’t feel pressured to get involved in extracurriculars as soon as you get your foot in the door. Establish yourself in your surroundings first and get grounded, especially if you’ve moved county, or even country. These societies and clubs will always be there but finding your ground and getting your bearings early on are far more conducive to a good college experience.
Sidenote: no harm in getting to know committee members of the societies you are interested in. You won’t look like a pathetic eager firstie, your enthusiasm will be incredibly appreciated. As I’ve noted before, adopt the ‘they are equal to me, not better than me’ mentality, as it helps take the edge off intimidation.
4) Write your schedule down as soon as you get it
You won’t remember it. You definitely won’t remember it. Your hand doesn’t count. Get a planner or stick it in your calendar – I use Google Calendars – and keep it easily accessible (no putting it in a folder on your phone along with Flappy Bird, Temple Run and other apps that you don’t use).
5) Make an appointment with the college counsellor
Ok so I know this one might be a bit odd but stick with me here.
When I was in secondary school, the idea of going to a counsellor or a therapist was interpreted as a bad thing, that “something was wrong with you”, that you were defective or insane. This is absolutely not not not the case at all. Believe me, by the end of your four years, either you, or someone you know, will have visited the college counsellor. Being able to talk about your life to someone impartial and trained in helping young people our age in their mental health, is one of the most valuable opportunities presented to you at university.
There are a few reasons as to why I’d say do it now. Making that transition from school to college is, at the best of times, difficult, so talking about your experiences, either positive or negative, to someone who has heard it all before and worse, can greatly enhance your time at college.
Secondly, once you make your appointment, it’s easier to make other ones further down the line. As college goes into essay and exam season, there will be a huge demand on booking appointments. That, mixed with a reduction in resources and funding across most major college counselling services, means that it will be hell trying to make an appointment any time between November and December, and again in April. Most services require you to have a 30min session before you even start an hour of counselling and this can be a pain, especially when you are gridlocked with assignments and the sorts. My advice is to get that first session down, and make an appointment for the next, and keep going with it because you never know when you may really, really need it.
6) Make yourself known
I don’t mean going up to your professors after class to introduce yourself, I would avoid doing that. But ask questions, email questions, be present, make yourself a familiar face. It goes a long way come essay and exam time.
7) Meet your college tutor
Just do it. It makes your life easier when you need that extension or if you miss an exam. Take a note of their email address and ask if you can pop in during their office hours at some point over the next two weeks. Last thing you want is to contact your tutor for the first time during your fourth year finals and them to be like, “who?”
8) Set up a Facebook group with the others in your course
Incredibly helpful whether you have 10 in your course or 300 (BESS, I’m looking at you). Share notes, advice, exam hints, book PDFs, scanned documents, pleas for help, and the inevitable “I thought Marketing 101 was in room 3104, where is everyone???”
9) Get loyalty cards to your favourite coffee shops and restaurant
And start earning those sweet rewards before Halloween even hits. If you’re in Trinity, DIT, or anywhere in town, I recommend Coffee Angel, Dublin Barista School (those €2 student deals), and 3FE. If you’re anywhere else, Costa and Starbucks do good deals on their loyalty cards, as do Insomnia.
10) Give yourself something to look forward to at the end of the week
Whether it’s going home to recuperate after the weekend and stock up on supplies or simply to put on your favourite film on and get your favourite Cadbury’s + Oreo/Daim bar fusion, giving yourself something to look forward to can lighten the days when things seem tough. For me, it’s going to my favourite coffee shop, getting the largest cup of my favourite coffee, and writing (blogging or fiction or otherwise). It relaxes me and allows me to feel as though I have accomplished something. And I get a good coffee fix with it.
Any ideas I’ve left out? Let me know