Living: How will you make it through college? It is a big financial drain,

Getting the most out of college: How will you make it through college? It is a big financial drain, you’ve got to figure out a place to live and you might have to do your own washing and cooking for the first time.

The college years are tight, but students have made frugality an art form. Evan Healy of the Student Budgeting Advice Service at University College Cork estimates that students living away from home will need about €1,000 a month to cover the cost of accommodation, bills, food, academic costs, travel, social life and other costs – and that's before the student registration charge is factored in.

Last month, a survey by the Higher Education Authority found that one in six students who started a college course in 2010 had dropped out by the following academic year, often for financial reasons.

Students whose parents have a combined parental income of less than €54,240 may be entitled to some financial support, ranging from partial payment of the registration fee right through to a full maintenance grant, a field trip contribution and full payment of tuition or registration fees.

In Dublin, the price of rents is continuing to skyrocket, prompting many students in the greater Dublin and Leinster area to stay at home and commute to college. The costs of rents is even higher in Dublin city while, nationwide, on-campus accommodation costs have risen by 13 per cent.

Paying bills and learning to budget is another skill. Banks will throw all sorts of incentives at students to entice them to open an account with them. Don’t just go for who is offering the most free mobile phone credit, but look at their overall service, interest rates and internet banking services.

Avoid signing up to a credit card only to learn the lesson that everyone who has ever had a credit card learns: interest repayments are exorbitant and you’ll never pay off that bill. Instead, consider opening an account with the credit union, especially if you think you’ll be looking for loans during your time in college. If you’re in the lucky position to put aside as little as €20 a month, you can borrow up to three times your savings from the credit union at good interest rates.

It’s a good idea to build up your CV and skills, including getting involved in college life, to work towards a career after college.

Right now, though, you might need a job. Luckily, the jobs market has improved. Don’t just rely on jobs websites, but follow IrishJobFairy on Twitter and keep an eye on Activelink, which often posts jobs in the community and NGO sector that might be suitable for students.

Ask family and friends if they know anyone who’s hiring. During the summer, consider heading abroad for work. Clean up your online profile: employers do check your Twitter and Facebook accounts and if, for example, it’s full of sexist nonsense or pictures of you drinking, you’ll be off the list.

Whether you stay at home or move into a new place, it is also time to learn some life skills. If your parents haven’t already given you some chores, learn to use the washing machine and cook dinner for your family at least once a week. These are valuable life skills. It is not as complex as you might think: colours go in one wash, whites in another. Ironing is the most devious and cunning trick ever played: unless you have a job interview or wear particularly crisp linen, the chances are you don’t need to iron. Those creases will fall out.

Students with disabilities, including mobility issues, visual or hearing impairments, dyspraxia, dyslexia and Asperger’s face greater challenges. Be sure to make contact with your college’s disability support service, which will provide crucial supports. When you are picking your modules, look out for courses which use a variety of teaching methods. As well as being more accessible to students with disabilities, these courses tend to be the best and most innovative.

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