There are a lot of instabilities when beginning college but two I never factored in was anxiety and lack of money. A vicious combination of the two led me to taking a gap year between my final secondary school exams and the big leave for college.
Returning to education following a year of “just living” wasn’t the most straightforward of experiences in life. I was afraid I’d forgotten how to learn, I was fearful the anxiety would creep back in but more so I was terrified that I just wouldn’t fit into the world of 3rd level education. 4 years on and I can safely say I’ve loved 70% of my college experience (the lost 30 belong to anxiety, exhaustion and the boring lectures you’ll inevitably meet along the way)
When I look back at the weeks before I began college, I’ll remember the insane amount of frantic Googling and annoying questioning that ruled my life. What did I need to take with me? What course would be perfect for me? Is their careers in that discipline? How much would I make in the future? How much would college cost me? Did I even have enough money to get me through the first year? Looking backwards now, I wish I had someone who could have guided me through the process of starting third level (there is only so much you can learn for talks with the “bro” representative of your Student Union who you cannot take seriously as he talks sternly about the importance of personal safety wearing a pair of board shorts, a wife beater and a trucker cap) So here a few snippets of knowledge I wish I’d know back in those tentative days.
I hate even writing this one because it’s so cliché but it’s so true. You will almost certainly enrich your college experiences by getting involved in college life; be it a club, a society or volunteering. I began with karate in first and second year and later took up a social media position with our Drama Society. I really hit the gold in third year when I joined the Business Society and have been having the time of my life ever since. I’ve met amazing people, done some fantastically interesting things and had some brilliant adventures with world-class people. It’s helped me to develop socially and intellectually and it’s definetly a topic I get asked about a lot in interviews. HR love to hear that you are willing to get involved!
Found secondary school a doddle? Don’t expect the same in college
I’ve always been a book smart person (because I didn’t get out a lot as a kid) but coming to college has been a leap of will power and brain power and certainly a lot more difficult than I could have ever expected. There’s times I’ve felt like I’ve not been able for a particular project or task and other times when i felt so dumb for not getting something that would usually be considered “normal” or “easy”. In these situations I’ve learned that I’ve just had to apply myself a bit more and up the effort. Your strengths aren’t necessarily the strengths of everyone around you. It’s important to apply yourself to every task you are given and try your damned hardest even when it feels like you’re trying to explain how to code to a computer illiterate 76-year-old.
Sleep (Please sleep)
I hold my hands up high and say that I am guilty of the “I can sleep when I’m dead” mentality sometimes. When I’m extremely busy with assignments (or Netflix is extremely interesting) I’ll happily by-pass my 40 winks. And it catches up on me and I become the most uncoordinated, annoying individual present. Thankfully, I’ve begun to learnt the skill of balancing the important late night tv sessions with a good 8 hours sleeps. But believe me; sacrificing your sleep will inevitably damage your college work and your help. Sleep please.
Take it easy sometimes
My friends and I are great at this one. College is tough and sometimes you’ll need to take a good, long break to realign your brain. Work hard but also rest hard. Spending all day working or studying isn’t healthy and it’s definietly more intuitive to take regular breaks. Meet a friend. Grab a coffee. Eat all the chocolate. Take a really, really long nap; I dare you!
Learn the art of moderation (because it is an art)
Go out. Have that drink. Have a good time. Party Hard. But learn to do it in moderation. A lot of college is about being social and having madcap adventures with people you won’t remember next week but that doesn’t neglect the need for being safe and using moderation. At the end of the day you don’t want to be the one on graduation day with the mediocre degree wishing you could take all that vodka back. There’s a time and place for everything.
Don’t be afraid to talk or ask for help
Maybe because I’m in a smaller college or maybe the people I’m surrounded by are just brilliant but I’ve never found difficulty in talking to my lecturers when I have a problem or an issue. Most lecturers are more than willing to talk things through with you and give as much assistance as they can. Where you find some resistance (or you just have one of those lecturers) seek the help of classmates or look for programs in your college that are focused on helping with particular disciplines.
College is also a time where mental health issues play up or become apparent for the first time. My first big piece of advice is to try to surround yourself with great people. My friends are the most amazing support system and I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through college without them. They are actual saints for dealing with my daily moments of madness/panic/crying-in-the-bathrooms-over-absolutely-nothings and I’m still shocked they haven’t planned my murder (though there is still one semester left for me to watch my back……) Student Unions and on campus health services are also brilliant resources. If you need a break or coursework is getting too much, talk to you lecturers. Believe me, they’ve seen it all and can help more than you’ll expect. Remember it’s definitely okay not to feel okay and asking for help will never hold negative connotations.