Go for the courses, stay for the social life

Living away from home for the first time is one of the biggest culture shocks you’ll ever face. Doing your own washing will rock you to the core

College is a time to experiment. Join all the societies you can afford to join. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images

College is a time to experiment. Join all the societies you can afford to join. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images

 

Over the next year, you’ll hear quite a lot about choosing a college and thinking about a career. But while you might go to college for the course, you’ll stay for the social side and the life lessons. So, what’s it really like to go to third level?

– Looking to hook up? It might not be the wisest idea to go out with a classmate. If – more likely when – you break up, you’ll be forced to look across the class at their stupid, ugly face for several more years. You’ll unfollow them on Instagram but make all your friends show you their pictures anyway, and then ultimately all your friends will have to choose between you the two of you, and the drama will never, ever end.

– If you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and yet to come out (or feel you’re unlikely to ever so), college will be a revelation. While bigotry and cockroaches will always survive any nuclear holocaust, third level is a very supportive place to come out. Whether you choose one of the big universities or a smaller regional hub like Kerry or Letterkenny, you’ll find LGBT societies and a generally more welcoming and open atmosphere.

– College is a time to experiment. Adopt new identities and looks every semester. Join all of the political parties at some stage, ideally not becoming right-wing as you go along – there’s plenty of time for that after college. Just don’t join the actual Nazis or any party with “identity” in the title. And if you don’t look back in shame on at least two opinions you held in college, you didn’t do it right.

– Low on funds? Hang out with the rich kids – you’ll find them in commerce – and siphon off all their money.

– Living away from home for the first time is one of the biggest culture shocks you’ll ever face. Doing your own washing will rock you to the core. On-campus is great for the first year, but it’s tough to secure a spot. Digs are a good halfway house between breakfast and independence.

– Sports club or weekend lie-ins? Your call.

– You’ll need to adopt new musical tastes and know bands “before anyone else had even heard of them”. You’ll also need to start feigning an interest in theatre and ideally audition for a part in a student drama production. And you’ll have to earmark pages in James Joyce’s Ulysses and carry it around so people think you’re smart.

– Being a college student is tougher than ever: you have to constantly act as though you are being recorded and watched. Because you are. Your friends are all just waiting for you to get really drunk and make a show of yourself so they can film it and make millions off their latest viral video sensation, before jetting off for the summer with the cash they earned from your stupidity. Basically, you’re better off trying not to move.

– It’s tempting to choose a college course based on where your school friends are going. Don’t. A much better option is to abandon every friend from your old life, because you were only really friends on account of them sitting beside you in class. You can definitely find more interesting people in college.

– Expert dieticians and health experts all agree: the rules of human nutrition and biology are suspended during college, and students instead enter a magic world where they can subsist on Tayto, white bread, white pasta with sugary tomato sauces, jellies, chips, breakfast rolls, and tea, with no consequences whatsoever.

–Low on funds? Just eat around the mould.

– If you don’t want to eat this stodge-tastic food, feed your parents sob stories about the terrible food up in Dublin and how it’s not like what they make, and they’ll send you back with pies and casseroles for the freezer.

– On tea: you’ll have to choose Barry’s or Lyon’s and have nothing to do with the other side at all. They’re your bitter, bitter enemies.

– The stakes couldn’t be lower, the hostility couldn’t be higher. Learn all you’ll need to know about dealing with robots and psychopaths by getting involved in your students’ union.

– Join all the societies you can afford to join.

– If you don’t have a walking rubbish fire of a flatmate at some point during college, you are the walking rubbish fire of a flatmate. It’s hard to decide who is worse: the slob who blends into the grime they create around them, the skinflint who takes all your stuff but insists that you pay him “because you were listening to the song from my Spotify too”, or the control freak who quickly comes to own two hours per day of your time and uses it to make you scrub the u-bend of the toilet with tiny toothbrushes. Good. Luck.