The A-Z of college essentials


Is your Facebook profile the one you want to carry you through to third level? Can you cook yourself a decent dinner? This idiot-proof guide will set you up for your first days in college


Nobody will notice if you don’t show up. This starts as a novelty, fast becomes a habit and eventually turns into a necessity when you’re too scared to show your lesser-spotted face. College offers so many opportunities that it’s easy to forget why you’re actually there. Your degree matters at the end of the day and absenteeism just creates a spiral of anxiety best avoided by early and frequent attendance.


Will this be the year that the axe falls on free third level? How long do you think the picture of Quinn signing that “contract” will work as a deterrent? Everyone will be watching nervously although it’s not as if college is actually free. Registration fees, accommodation, bills and have you seen the cost of college books? Time to remortgage the house, Mums and Dads! Oh wait . . .


Retain coupon books. You’ll gather a good few during Freshers Week and probably leave them in the bar. However, the day will come when you only have €2 to feed yourself until the end of the week and one of those coupons might just save your life, or at least save you the indignity of going to your parents for money again. Cut out, keep and watch out for those expiration dates. While you’re at it, join a couple of the “deal of the day” websites. You’ll pick up surprising bargains for not much money at all.


Aka chutzpah, audacity, cheek. In your first few days of college you need to make new friends and this requires a bit of neck. Everyone feels the same way. People just react differently. Be one of the proactive ones. Don’t cower in the corner hoping someone will approach. Smile, make eye contact and introduce yourself to somebody. Believe it or not, they’re scared too.


You have been that soldier who missed the lecture when all the information about assignments was given out. On that serendipitous day that you happen to be the one who turned up, share the love. Seek out the empty seaters. It’s good karma.


What does your page say about you? Look at it critically, with the eye of a stranger. If you want to present a certain image to your college mates, make sure your social networking profiles match the persona. If you don’t want people to know that you spend all your free time playing fantasy games and that you “like” Justin Bieber’s fan page then get cracking and change that timeline before it’s too late. Make sure your Facebook identity doesn’t scupper your chances of making friends.


DIT is finally getting the all-in-one campus it wanted. This is a major development, 12 years in the planning. No longer will DIT students be a disjointed mismatched bunch. Have you seen the plans? It’ll be the envy of the third level scene. There will be modern facilities for over 17,000 students, accommodation, research labs, student services, the works. It will of course mean that the students are no longer in their city centre campuses. Dublin city pubs are in mourning.


Ridiculously attractive shop assistants, darkened stores, spotlit clothes so there’s a certain attraction there. But you don’t have to, you know.


If you are going to share a house or apartment with others and want to get away with living your life your way, be ready to say this as often as necessary. It is the only way to do things your way while managing to keep the peace. Practice in the mirror. Go-on. “Sorry I got fake tan on the dress I didn’t tell you I was borrowing.” “Sorry I woke you at 4am falling in the door with the Rag ball DJ.” “Sorry I told your new fella that you use athlete’s foot powder.”


If you have to get one, make sure it’s a job that lets you double job, as it were. You can read Voltaire while working as a security guard, but it’s not so easy if your job involves onions or sharp knives


Also Foucault, Bourdieu, Kant, Benjamin; all names that you can freely drop in the pub for the duration of your tenure at college. In fact you should make a conscious effort to do so while you’re a student because while it’s okay, even encouraged in the college bar, you can never, never discuss such things after you graduate.


You don’t have to bring your washing home to mother do you? Really? Launderettes aren’t that bad and offer an opportunity to meet some of the more domesticated types of the opposite sex. Seriously though, dragging that black sack of manky clothing to your Friday morning lecture is powerfully uncool.


Sometimes after cramming, mostly after partying. How well can you fake that swagger across campus, trying to look like you’re on your way to your first lecture when in fact you’re still up from last night? Double espresso and toothpaste will be your friends.


Know how you feel and trust your gut. It’s college. Lots of young adults drunk on freedom and high on life – it’s a potent mixture and you’re bound to be exposed to various dodgy situations and substances. Peer pressure is a secondary school game. Try and keep the head and forget what your mates are doing if you’re not comfortable. Being able to say no is actually pretty awesome.


It could be argued that this is the realm of the nerd, the swot and the over-earnest class rep candidate. However, it’s not at all a bad idea to partake in some of the how-to talks and tours in Freshers Week. There are lots of them and they are surprisingly well attended. You may reckon you’ll get by without bothering but come November, you’ll feel a lot less idiotic if you know how to order a book when you eventually darken the door of the library as your first assignment is due.


No summer jobs going this year, student charges going up – what can we say? Student poverty is unfortunately hot right now. You can become really good at being poor though. Living on Tesco value beans on toast isn’t actually that bad. If you pop an egg on there you’ve actually got a massively nutritious meal. You’ll find there’s a curious satisfaction in managing to have a night out on a fiver or less. Be smart, shop around and see the advice on discount websites and use your coupons. Listen to your fellow students. Who’d shop in Dunnes when you’ve the Moore Street traders down the road? It’s entirely possible to exist on practically nothing and if you’re smart, you might be able to live a little too. One thing is certain, you’ll be broke for a long time. May as well get used to it.


Get some recipes and learn how to cook. It’s cheaper, tastier and healthier than eating out. The key to quick eats is to forget the potato. Rice, pasta and noodles are what you want. Forget Jamie’s 30 minute meals. Most students worth their salt can whip up a bowl of pesto pasta with cheese in a third of that time. There’s a tonne of info online and studentrecipes.comis a good start. Also check out the BBC Good Food website. It’s always a winner.


We’ll say it again, it’s shockingly easy to forget why you’re in college. There is so much stuff to do and you really can start to think that your membership of the Lit and Deb society is the be all and end all. Let’s be clear here. Results matter. Your degree matters. Believe it or not, your chances of getting first class honours can vary a lot between institutions. Eighteen per cent of DCU’s graduating students were awarded firsts between 2005 and 2010; 13 percent of NUIG’s students graduated with the same results; 54 percent of TCD students got a 2.1 compared with 34 percent of UL students. NUIM had the highest failure rate at almost five percent. That’s food for thought right there. Of course, it doesn’t really matter what college you go to if you’re willing to put in the work. Remembering that is the key.


Do you eat, sleep and breathe a particular sport? Or are you just a brainbox who expects to get 10 zillion points? Well you could be in for a bit of cash. All colleges offer sports scholarships to talented athletes and players. If you haven’t checked out the possibilities, you should. They require a high standard. Generally you will need to have represented Ireland at international level. If you fit the bill, Google it and you’ll see what’s out there for you.

If you’re a brainbox who got great results in the Leaving, you too could be in for a windfall. More and more colleges are trying to attract high achievers with entrance scholarships. NUIG, for example, is offering Excellence Scholarships worth €2,000 to students who get 560 points or more in the Leaving. They offer separate bursaries to high achieving medical students. UL has 40 scholarships, also worth €2,000 to offer to high achievers. DCU has €1,000 for students who get more than 500 points. These are just a taster of what’s out there. Check out your college of choice to see what’s on offer.


So many opportunities between student summer work visas and study exchange programmes. You will never find it easier to work in the US than with a J1 visa, but don’t stop there. Look at the student run NGO Suas (, which sends students out to developing countries to work for the summer. There are teaching opportunities in China, Korea and Japan for graduates and USIT offers amazing volunteering placements too. Honestly, it will never be this easy again. Grab the opportunities. Live bravely. You won’t regret it.


If you’re still 17 at the beginning of the college year, those months before the big 1-8 can really drag. Then, you finally reach that milestone and everyone suddenly decides that they want to go to the bar that’s over 21s. Girls have it easier than guys when it comes to bouncers. The key for women is to tone it down a little. Don’t try to look older. Women who really are overage don’t need to plaster on the make-up and generally avoid the four inch heels when popping in for a quick pint. Guys, just don’t give bouncers any reason to turn you away like wearing the wrong shoes or something like that. If they turn you away, don’t argue, they don’t deserve your business anyway. You’re better off not picking any fights. The one bouncer who takes a dislike to you is bound to be the one who’s on that door for the next 10 years. Walk with the confidence of a 23 year-old and you never know, they might just let you away with it.


Posh word for second hand but the vintage and charity shops can turn up some veritable gems for the skint fashion fan. You have to be patient and willing to rummage. Under no circumstances should you attempt this manner of shopping with somebody who isn’t really into it. Nothing will ruin your chances of finding something special than a dear mate who drags you off for a mid-afternoon coffee or pint because they don’t understand. Stick with it and who knows what you might find?


Let’s face it, college life isn’t always a bed of roses. Things go wrong and if you’re away from home, exam stress and money troubles can all become too much. It happens to loads of people which is why all of the universities and IOTs have great student support services. If you don’t know where to go, call into your SU and they’ll direct you to the right person. A recent Campus.iesurvey found that 34 per cent of students have considered dropping out due to stress and more than half, 54 per cent, have felt depressed due to the pressure of college. Student life is brilliant but it’s definitely not easy. If you find that it gets on top of you, seek out some support. The people you meet have seen it all before. Don’t be alone when you’re having a hard time.


Oh come on, nothing begins with x and we can’t go without mentioning exams. As much as college life is massively important, your degree is the reason you’re there. The good news is, nothing college can throw at you comes close to the drudgery that was the two Leaving Cert weeks. The bad news is that with nobody looking over your shoulder, the opportunities to procrastinate on the study front are many and frequent. Don’t be an idiot. Repeats ruin a summer. Loads of people end up cancelling or curtailing an amazing summer abroad because they have to go and re-sit exams. It’s completely not worth that. Remember that if you fail the re-sits, repeating a year is massively inconvenient and ridiculously expensive. Do yourself a favour and just pass the damn things first time round.


Your response when new experiences and opportunities present themselves. (Apart from certain circumstances – see N) You are far more likely to regret the things you don’t do than the things you do. Go for it.


Because nothing else begins with z. UCD, TCD, NUIG, and UCC offer it as an option through science. You can study it at postgrad level as well. Science plus cute and fluffies has to be a winner right?