100 things you need to know about college life
Negotiating your way around the first few months of college takes a bit of know-how and nerve.
GRÁINNE FALLER, PETER McGUIREand
EOIN CUNNINGHAMhave compiled some tips.
1 Having the complete series of The Wire on your shelf is the 21st-century version of slapping a peace sticker on your jacket. Owning only the first season, bookended by Gossip Girl and the Harry Potter series, is a bit like going to a demonstration in a tutu. Exciting, but we couldn’t recommend it.
2 Liking bands filled with people old enough to be your dad (U2) is not cool. Now it’s all about your grandfather’s banjo albums.
3 When it comes to books, you can either claim that you do enough reading for your exams or you can carry around a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses, not forgetting to earmark the pages, so people will believe you’ve read it. Moby Dick, or anything by Graham Greene, will also make you look smart. Mix it up with some modern classics: Skippy Dies by Paul Murray and The City of Bohane by Kevin Barry are required reading for any student in Ireland.
4 Going to the theatre is worth about 20 culture points. Setting out to see a play but ending up in a bar watching the rugby is minus-20, unless you’re flaunting an Ernest Hemingway beard and “curating an installation”.
5 Any self-respecting student muso stereotype needs to invest in at least one synth. Dublin in particular really needs more live synth music. Play it while wearing glasses without lenses. Get some synths for your mates too. Really.
6 Culture is really just a short way of saying, “I like stuff.” If you feel compelled to pretend you like things you don’t, or haven’t even experienced – and you’re not still in first year – it is time to have a hard look at your pretensions.
7 Apart from anything else, those hilarious videos on your Tumblr and RTs of Lena Dunham aphorisms on Twitter – or, heaven help us, “liking” Arthur’s Day on Facebook – are some of the ways your friends will find you. Do you really want to pretend to know all about Ulysses and to really, really dig obscure bluegrass records for the rest of your life?
8 You’ll consume copious amounts of the following: red lemonade, Tayto sandwiches, 3am kebabs, chip butties, breakfast rolls, Barry’s tea.
9 Seventy per cent of students eat fast food at least once a week.
10 Beer and vodka shots are not a food group.
11 Mushroom-flavour Koka noodles don’t count towards your five a day. Sadly.
12 You’ll jet off to the US for the summer with your friends, and you’ll all have a right laugh at the one who had the foresight to bring a box of Barry’s tea. When you’ve all calmed down you’ll spend the rest of your summer sucking up to her in a vain attempt to get a decent cuppa.
13 The right length of time to leave beans on the hob is however long it takes for the sauce to thicken and reduce slightly.
14 Tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce, served on toast with heaps of butter, is a delicious, nutritious, energy-packed river of valuable carbohydrates.
15 A bit of plámás for the mammy’s cooking can lead to a freezer full of delightful treats, such as shepherd’s pie and chicken casseroles. Result.
16 You may sit smugly in your delightful youth convinced that garlic and cheese chips for lunch every day will never make you fat.
17 According to the student Twittersphere, the following is true: it’s okay to eat pizza that’s been under a pile of unwashed clothes for five days, as long as you pick off the mould.
18 As is this: Rancheros sandwiches slathered with butter make up at least three of the major food groups: grain, meat flavour and dairy substitute. See?
19 Twitter also gave us this handy guide to digs dinners: mince, spuds and peas on a Monday; chicken, spuds and peas on a Tuesday, pork chops, spuds and peas on a Wednesday; and sausage, chips and peas on a Thursday. The menu will never change.
20 The Slob: thinks that Mr Sheen is Charlie Sheen’s dad and that bed sheets need be changed only when they crunch audibly. Would also love to throw away decaying food, old newspapers and dead things they found but can’t, or else their family will die.
21 The Skinflint: pillages your leftovers, borrows your milk and doesn’t replace it, never has change for the taxi and thinks that convenience means shopping from your cupboard rather than from a shop.
22 The Control Freak: leaves passive-aggressive Post-it notes all over the house, creates a complex cleaning rota and writes their name all over their bananas, just so you don’t get confused, what with your tiny mind and all.
23 The Swot: yes, there are swots at college too. Sightings? UCD library late on a Friday night – during fresher’s week. Never wastes time in the flat.
24 The Disaster Zone: tries to boil an egg in the microwave. “What’s that burning smell?” will be their catchphrase. Sometimes it will be them. Other times it’s the last bit of tomato soup, burnt on to the bottom of your only saucepan. “Where’s that water coming from?” is their second-favourite catchphrase. Get ready for overflowing toilets and sinks ruining your meticulous notes, most likely the night before that important exam.
25 The One You Secretly Fancy: oh dear, this is messy . . . You’ll try to get a Wills’n’Kate vibe going: they shared a flat and look at them now.Politics and societies
26 Debating is a great way to meet people who aren’t interested in your opinion.
27 Joining a college paper gives you a wonderful insight into the media world: no money, too much coffee and the place is stuffed with music journalists.
28 If you insist on running for a society election, go for secretary. That’s the only one who doesn’t have to do any real work. As long as you keep the rest of the committee in biscuits, you’re home free.
29 This is your chance to try on a few political opinions and see how they fit. Go for it.
30 Student politicos come in two types: naked careerists who see your support as a stepping stone to their futures in the Dáil, and those who believe they really can make a difference on the big geopolitical issues – in this case the college’s library budget and the dire canteen food.
31 If you have a keen interest in power-walking, the Socialist Workers Party offers regular group marches, often with free weights (called “placards”) to help tone those upper arms.
32 Liking a petition on Facebook is not the same as joining a charitable society.
33 Getting involved in the debating world might make you feel important and popular.
34 Get involved. You will not regret it.
35 The Leaving Cert is finished. Nobody cares how many points you got, so – gently, now – let it go.
36 Wish you could change your course choice? You’re not alone: 44 per cent of students in a campus.ie survey said they’d change their CAO choices if they could do it all over again, and 30 per cent felt the way the college prospectus described their course bore little or no relation to the reality.
37 Avoid repetition. Nothing puts the bummer in summer like repeat exams.
38 Only fools leave student life without a serious caffeine addiction. Coffee is your true friend, your constant companion 24/7.
39 Serious fact. Look around your lecture hall; more than a third of your peers will consider dropping out because of stress. Fifteen per cent or so will drop out of or fail first year at most colleges.
40 You will emerge from college in four years time believing at least one of your lecturers is a genius. You will be correct in that assessment.
41 Don’t plagiarise. There’s an abundance of online resources to steal from, but, like an evolutionary arms race, lecturers are equipping themselves with an equal abundance of tools for catching cheats.
42 You will stay up all night at least once cramming for an exam.
43 Boring but true: you will amaze yourself with a new-found interest in an array of complex subjects.
44 You will conclude that learning is quite enjoyable. We’re designed for it. We like it. It helps us to pontificate.
45 You will discover on a Thursday that you have a 3,000-word assignment to hand in the next day on a book you have never heard of. You will stay up all night reading and writing (see No 42), and, having discovered that it is possible to complete an assignment in 24 hours, you will adopt a last-minute policy from now on. Until you see your appalling grade.
46 Results matter. Believe it or not, your chances of getting first-class honours can vary a lot between the various institutions. Eighteen per cent of DCU’s graduating students were awarded firsts between 2005 and 2010, the highest rate of any third-level college in Ireland. NUIM had the highest failure rate, at almost 5 per cent. That’s food for thought right there.
47 Try – really try – to make friends from the moment you step on campus. Feeling positive will enhance your college experience – and even help with exams.
48 Anonymous marking means your lecturer won’t allocate extra points for your wit and charm. Best that you study after all.
49 Wrap up warm. It’s always cold in the exam hall. Even at the height of summer.
50 Exams are just the sharp end of a new experience for you, in which the excitement of finally getting to do what you’ve always wanted to do with your life is tempered by the realisation that in a few years you’ll need to convince someone else they should pay you to do it.
51 Undergraduate life might be only the beginning.These days about 40 per cent of students proceed to a postgraduate course.
Sex and relationships
52 Believe it or not, plenty of you will meet your future life-long partners at college.
53 Key things to consider: are you using protection? Are they? Are you both happy? If you can’t answer yes to all of theses, you’ve got a problem – and if you can’t see that, you’ve got a major one.
54 Facts about college: you’ll have no money; you’ll drink the cheapest beer; and you’ll spend at least 80 per cent of your time queuing in the rain for a bus. Many experts continue to ponder whether these facts are related.
55 Snogger’s remorse: the lights were low, the drinks were flowing, it was late and somehow you thought kissing him (or her) would be a good idea. Why did you do it? And why did you give out your number? Regrets? You’ll have a few.
56 Remember one thing: sex is not obligatory.
57 A third of students have had unprotected sex while drunk, according to a Student Marketing Network survey. Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise according to the HSE. Connection, anyone?
58 You will surprise yourself by fancying a culchie/Dub/jock/ swot/geek (delete as appropriate).
59 Fatherly advice: The Inbetweeners is silly, puerile comedy. Okay? Don’t try that stuff at home or on campus.
60 If you’re gay, college is the world’s greatest place to come out. These days there are LGBT societies on every campus.
61 Pay no attention to the boasts of fellow students about their sex lives on campus.
62 Writing love poems as your status update is a bad idea, for all sorts of reasons.
63 Deciding not to bother with contraception is an even worse idea. Take the time to protect yourself and others. Remember, they’re not balloons.
64 Following someone around all year, gazing longingly at them across the lecture hall and ending up going out with their best friend instead is all part of the magic of college. Once you graduate it’s called stalking – and it’s not funny.
65 That awful nickname you had at school? Great news: you can ditch it now you’re at college.
66 Sad but true: cliques abound at college – “You can’t sit there! That’s where the sci-fi geeks hang out.” Pay no attention.
Drink, craic and the rest
67 That German beer from Aldi is not bad.
68 You will go out at least three nights a week.
69 Nine out of 10 students started drinking while underage, according to the Student Marketing Network.
70 Forty-nine per cent of students have never taken illegal drugs. Of the other 51 per cent, 99 per cent of them have tried marijuana, 30 per cent have tried ecstasy and 20 per cent have tried cocaine. One per cent have used heroin.
71 Warning: 37 per cent of students said they had been injured or hospitalised because of alcohol; a similar proportion admit to having found themselves “in danger’’ because of excessive alcohol
72 You don’t have to drink, despite what endless alcohol promotions at the student bar might have you believe.
73 Make friends with someone living on campus. It’s where all the best parties are.
74 The college bar remains the centre of student life. Paradoxically – the kind of word you will be using a lot – there’s now no bar at UCD, Ireland’s largest university.
75 Aside from that Aldi stuff, you may find yourself drinking “value” wine from boxes. Pretend it’s a 1980s dinner party and you can even feel a little sophisticated.
76 Careful with those proudly held opinions: pontificating at parties may lead to cringing in old(er) age.
77 Expect your first proper hangover when you turn 21. Coffee, toothpaste, deodorant, dry shampoo: your best friends the morning after the night before.
78 If you are already renting, this is the moment you start to see what all your hard work is for. If the answer you come up with is “a very small, expensive place I share with people I barely know”, congratulations and welcome to Austere Ireland.
79 It’s going to be here for a while, so pull up a stack of outstanding bills, sit down and have some gruel.
80 If you’re lucky, you’ll dodge this bullet and manage to stay at home. Then again, if you do, remember that nothing punctures the illusion of being a latter-day Bohemian more than your mum poking her head around the door because she needs your socks for the wash.
81 Fact check: average rents are rising in Dublin (bloody landlords). If you’re in the city centre you can expect to pay about €500 a month for a double room; if you’re on the northside, out DCU direction, €400 is more like it. Students in the rest of the country have it a little easier financially, with Galway and Cork averaging about €340 a month; Limerick rents average about €290 a month; and a double room in Maynooth will set you back about €360, according to the most recent Daft rental report.
82 And the good news? Rents are still down by about 25 per cent from the high of 2007.
83 More than a quarter of students drive to college. Virtually all of them are still living at home.
84 You will probably lose your deposit because of the dent in the wall that bloke made with his head at that party you threw last week.
85 Some of the big colleges have apartments on campus, which allows them to provide some of the comforts of home, such as older siblings who complain about the noise and then call the Garda.
86 Serious advice: make sure you get a lease from your landlord.
87 There are two types of students: those who sign up for sports clubs at the beginning of first year and those who actually go. Neither group knows much about the other. One group is healthier, the other gets lie-ins. Your choice.
88 Don’t mock the fella with the hurl in his hand. He will sit in lectures and write with his right while grasping the hurl in his left, but don’t question it. There’s a big game coming up.
89 Dive into UCD’s new Olympic-size pool. Brag a bit if you are at UL – those guys have had a pool since sometime back in the 20th century.
90 Want to see how the other half lives? Join the sailing club, darling.
91 Surfing, kayaking, rock climbing = hippies having the craic.
92 You’ll be surprised how many of the people involved in karate, judo and aikido are also fans of Dungeons Dragons.
93 Watching endless hours of Sky Sports News is not a sporting activity.
94 If you have older siblings, they’ll tell you that the current generation of college students look a lot fitter than their counterparts of even 10 years ago. A lot of male bodybuilding is going on. Clive James once described Arnold Schwarzenegger as looking like a condom full of walnuts. You may encounter some lookalikes.
95 More than half of students work their way through college.
96 The jobs available to students aren’t glamorous. You’ll hear a lot of older people tell you you’re learning the value of money, when what they mean is: “I’m so glad I don’t have to be a kitchen porter any more.”
97 According to the DIT cost-of-living survey for this year, you’ll need almost €900 a month to get by if you’re renting and €455 if you’re living at home. Sorry – hopefully you were sitting down for that one.
98 How times have changed. Five years ago 40 per cent of you thought you would get the job you wanted and own a second property by the time you were 30. Such is the optimism of youth that half of you still reckon you’ll get a job in your chosen field.
99 You will have a summer you will never forget working in the US.
100 Get used to a different relationship with your parents. They’re not just your mum and dad any more: they’re also your bank now. Refine your technique. When you call home, ask for your mum. If she’s not there, deflect your father with talk of study and sport. Call back later and twist your mother’s arm into twisting your father’s arm.