Student Update: A guide to surviving college


“The main thing to remember with college is that it's all going to be worthwhile. Some days it feels like college is just one huge waste of time and money” - Emma McCormack, a final-year Ag student.

Student Update: A guide to surviving college

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“The main thing to remember with college is that it's all going to be worthwhile. Some days it feels like college is just one huge waste of time and money” - Emma McCormack, a final-year Ag student.

Emma McCormack, a final-year Agriculture student is back with another update.

College isn't an easy time, despite the party life that it is depicted as, on social media. Only the best parts are portrayed - nobody really talks about the darker side.

Here is a straight-talking guide to college, as I settle into my fourth year of third level education. I'm no expert, even at this stage, I am still fumbling my way along at times.

College really is a period of time that in a way flies by, yet simultaneously it drags past. Most people are just winging it, even though they may appear to have it all figured out, trust me.

I considered leaving college this year or taking a year out. I was in no form for getting back to books after being away from them for over 10 months, thanks to work placement and my J1 adventure; however, with help from friends, I'm powering through and am back in college heading into week 4 already.

Whether you're studying an agricultural-based course or not, it is the same system we are all going through.

Like cattle at a factory, we are packed in together, and it is very easy to become lost in the vast sea of people, especially if your class is large - students literally are a number rather than a name.

Coming from school, all I wanted to do was go to college. To get away, 2 hours of a drive away to be precise.

I thought this is it, the dust has settled on the Leaving Cert, I've been accepted into my course and the hard work is done. Little did I know, in those naive days.

Yes, you can go out any night you like. Yes, you can skip lectures and nobody will come banging on your door or phone your parents.

You can do as you like, eat what you want and do as much or little learning as you wish. It sounds great, this new found freedom. Independence. It is brilliant, in that respect. I won't lie.

The Harsh Reality

College allows you to become an adult; you have to make yourself get up in the mornings and go to college, you're feeding yourself and running a household yourself, potentially. It can be extremely stressful too, though.

Assignments pile up before you know it, and deadlines approach from all angles.

The party life is great, but it makes it hard to get up the following morning, and once your attendance begins to slip, all sorts of problems crop up.

A year or two in, you start to look forward to heading home on Friday rather than being itching to get down to college on a Sunday. Decent food at home is a big incentive, along with a big, warm house. The dream...

The main thing to remember with college is that it's all going to be worthwhile. This is something that I fail to see sometimes. Some days it feels like college is just one huge waste of time and money.

It is tough to keep all of the bills paid, often I'd think to myself, the easiest thing to do would be pack it all in and forget about it. Some students are lucky enough to receive a grant, while some aren't.

There are student assistant funds in most colleges and don't be afraid to ask for help. Remember why you started this journey in the first place.

I've worked throughout my years in college, and it has been essential for me sticking at this college business. It is a lot more enjoyable when you have money in your pocket.

You learn how to save and budget and avoid wasting money, but there are plenty of worthwhile days and nights out that are worth splashing out on. Lay at home, with nothing to at the weekends.

Do your assignments during the week and make money at the weekends. You'll be glad of it on paydays for sure. College can make you become very lazy - you're sat on a chair all day, and then when evening comes there isn't always much to do except go out for the night, or lounge about watching television, for example.

Hobbies and other interests

Hobbies come in crucially here, as mentioned, it's great to have something to do that doesn't involve drinking!! Whether it is going to the gym or a Macra meeting, it keeps you out of trouble and allows you to meet new people.

It's good to head out with friends on a regular basis too, drinking or not drinking. College is more than just books.

The people you hang around with in college are the people you begin to act like, be influenced by and chat to a lot.

It's easy to fall in with the wrong crowd and be persuaded into all sorts. Choose your pals wisely, and they will help you through your degree more than they'll realise themselves. College friends are friends for life, there's no doubt about it

Students from farming backgrounds often are ineligible to apply for grants, which is a flaw in the system. Budgeting is a great skill you'll learn in college besides everything else, though.

Often college teaches students a lot about themselves rather than vice versa.

Academically, you learn as much as you want to. Not skipping lectures, whether for the Ploughing or not, is a good help!!

Go to class where possible and take notes. Your lecturer being able to put a face to your name will help you when exams come ahead. Be sound and you might get a few exams hints closer to them.

The Main Tips

  • Complete assignments when you receive them - either in one sitting or continuously chipping away at it - Don't be a Last Minute Lucy - it never works out well!
  • Get involved in something that is going on whether it is a sport in college, a club or society or the photography class;
  • Don't miss classes - no excuses really. Go to college, do your work and listen. You can never know too much information;
  • If you get a change, talk to people in your own career discipline and use this as a way to generate new ideas;
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions;
  • Make contacts.

Keep powering ahead

I think the college system in Ireland needs to be analysed ASAP. Until then, we have to chip away ourselves and try to enjoy it as much as possible.

I hope you took something from this article, and that you will enjoy college while excelling and learning plenty.

It will all pay off in the end, I assure you. It's tough to get a break in any career today without a few letters behind your name.

You may easily learn more by physically working such as on work placement but the theory has to be known also, as tedious as it is.

Stick with it and keep it lit, even when times are tough - you're well able.

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