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College can be the best time of your life - here's how to make the most of it

Jack Power’s been there – and he knows college can be terrifying. But he has some practical ways to make sure it’s an enjoyable experience.

COLLEGE CAN BE the best time of your life, but your first week is always a terrifying experience.

Here are some tips on settling in, finding accommodation, and how to not fail all your exams to start you off.

Talk to anyone

On your first day you’ll likely be surrounded by people you don’t know, and on a new campus that you don’t know your way around. It can be daunting and many students find it difficult to approach people or make friends in the first few weeks of term.

Get into the habit of striking up a conversation with whoever you end up sitting down beside in a lecture. It will seem awkward at first, but after you’ve stumbled through breaking the ice with four or five randomers it’ll get easier.

Your college campus will be far bigger than your secondary school, you could be talking to someone and then end up not seeing them again for weeks. So when you do see a face you recognise don’t hesitate to start a chat. The basis of many great college friendships can begin with “uhh you’re in my class aren’t you”, or a “you were at that thing earlier”.

If you’re nervous starting off on your first day just remember absolutely everyone else is equally petrified of seeming uncool or of not making any friends as you are.


The rental market is crazy at the moment, and prices for accommodation are highest near most colleges.

If you’re looking to move out of home for the college term your options are renting a house or flat, or applying for on-campus accommodation provided by your college. ‘Digs’, where you rent a room in a family home, is also becoming popular again.

You should check out the Union of Students’ Ireland website for information on how to start hunting for a flat or

Beware of scams online and never pay a deposit to a landlord without first viewing the property. Renters have more legal rights than you think, and you can contact the Residential Tenancies Board for advice if you think your landlord is doing you over at any time during the year.

Get involved in some things

As a ‘fresher’ starting college you’re going to be smothered by people encouraging you to get involved in everything.

It can be easy to sign up to every society, club, or activity in the first week of term and end up committing to nothing in the end. So get involved in some things, not everything.

It’s better to sign up for a few things you think you’d be interested in and commit to them properly.

Between the huge range of clubs and societies, college newspapers, or sport teams, there’s endless scope to follow your interests.

So pick one or two things and go along to their events in the first few weeks. It’s a great way to make a group of friends who will naturally be into the same stuff as yourself.

College is so vast, new and different that it’s a great time to define yourself by what you like, not what you think is cool by other people’s standards.

Sex it up (with caution)

Starting off in college can be an exciting period of freedom, especially if you’re living away from home. Coming from mainly all-boys or all-girls secondary schools, college will be most students’ first experience of mixed education.

But a word of warning: you’ll be in the same classes as most of these people for three or four years. While it might seem like a great idea to shift the first girl or boy you start chatting to on a class night out, consider that you’ll be seeing them on a very regular basis afterwards.

You should always have a condom in your wallet or purse. Don’t underestimate your chances of stumbling into a chance to have sex with someone only to find out you’ve no protection.

Your Students’ Union will be throwing condoms around like candy in the first few weeks, so stock up.


You don’t have to spend all your hours in the library surrounded by piles of ageing books to do well in college. Just go to the majority of your lectures and tutorials and you shouldn’t be in danger of failing anything come exam time.

Your lecturers will be happy to meet you individually if you’re struggling, so if you’re finding your course difficult email them early.

College was easily the most enjoyable three years of my life. I threw myself into it, wrote for the student paper, and made a great group of friends. I’d gladly go back to that terrifying first day on campus and do it all again.

Jack Power is editor of the College Tribune in UCD. You can follow him on twitter at @jackpower83

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