Ten tips for a smooth transition to college

Transition to third level can be tricky but with planning it can be exciting


The Leaving Certificate year is undoubtedly a very significant time in the life of a young adult. As you finalise your CAO course choices before July 1st, your mind will switch to preparing for going to college.

For the unsuspecting student it can be quite overwhelming, but with a little thought and planning the transition to third level can be exciting and refreshing. These 10 tips have helped students at NUI Maynooth make the transition.

1Take responsibility for your study.
The timetable at third level differs greatly from anything experienced at second level. Lectures are usually of 50-minute duration and require attention and a higher level of concentration than experienced in a classroom setting. Free time within the schedule should be seen as an opportunity for research and study which require planning and a balance between socialising with friends afterwards and going to the library.

2Study differently.
Third level introduces students to the arena of analysis and critical debate. This requires not only a deep interest in one’s subject but also a willingness to read widely based on guidelines proposed in lectures and tutorials.

3Be aware of deadlines.
At second level, an essay or project deadline may not carry the same penalty as it does at third level. Missing departmental deadlines could have an adverse effect on your overall year’s work.

4Go to your lectures.
The academic year is usually taught over two semesters of varying duration but generally they fall into a 15-week schedule. This includes lectures, tutorials, laboratory work, continuous assessment and final examinations. If you have the option of choosing from a range of subjects, try to attend the lectures of all the possible subjects and not wait until three or four weeks have passed which means you will have missed important material.

5Talk to your lecturers. Students have an opportunity to contact academic staff to seek direction and advice but it tends to be on a different level to that experienced in a school setting. In second level, pupils are well known to their teachers, often on a first name basis. Many students find it a little disconcerting to no longer have that facility available to them. Initially, being part of a class of 200 is a completely different experience to sitting in a classroom with 25.

6Join a few clubs and societies.
At NUIM, we find that students who join clubs and societies within the first few weeks find it a lot easier to settle in and make friends. It could be a sport or activity you’re already interested in or something entirely new. Outside of the halls of study and the world of lectures, it is essential to meet other like-minded – and not so like-minded – students who may share the same interests as you. This will expand your social circle and provide an opportunity for you to meet students from other courses across the college.

7Ask for help if you find yourself in difficulty.
It is essential to seek help and advice as early as possible if you find yourself out of your depth, whatever the problem. Most higher education institutions operate an open-door policy where students are free to pop in for a chat and advice if they are uncertain or feeling a little lost.

Usually issues are quickly resolved but not seeking advice in time could be detrimental to successfully completing this important first year of study. Numerous students before you will have encountered the same issues and college staff will be able to guide you to help you through them.

8Manage your budget.
Money management is increasingly problematic for students at third level due to the economic situation. Part-time work is more difficult to find so advance planning is crucial.

Have a realistic expectation of what costs may be involved such as registration, travel expenses, rent, books, food, clothes, socialising, etc and try not to run up unnecessary debt.

9 Start your accommodation search early.
In recent times the cost of accommodation has reflected the economic downturn in some areas – usually the further out from the college you are, the more cost-effective things become. The best bargains are always snapped up by those who begin their search early.

10 Enjoy and have fun.
University life is to be enjoyed not endured. It is a fantastic opportunity to broaden horizons, make new friends and explore some of the many opportunities that come your way. You may consider taking a year abroad with support from the college or it may simply be that you get immense enjoyment from taking up a sport or joining a society that you never had the opportunity to experience before. The possibilities are endless. Now that you have completed your Leaving Certificate you can look forward to taking the next steps on your educational journey. Best of luck.

Dr John McGinnity is admissions officer/assistant registrar at NUI Maynooth

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