Advice for first time college-goers

I presume many of you are planning on starting college/university in the upcoming days or weeks. There are possibly thousands of students entering this exciting new time in their lives within the country.

But as usual, Auntie Aisling is here to offer you some good clean advise to ensure a happy, safe and educational few years at college. Although I myself am entering my first year of a degree course, I’ve been out of school for 2 years and have lived away from home twice. This year, I lived away from home and did a full time PLC course in Dublin. With my PLC results, I got into ITCarlow to get my degree… I may be entering first year, but I’ve been through the college system nonetheless, so I know what to expect, and hopefully some of you may find my advice beneficial… Just my opinions!

1. BE ORGANISED FROM THE START.
I can’t express the importance of this enough. Most of you will be attending numerous lecture halls and so forth, and if you decide to NOT take notes or even file your notes properly, you’re setting yourself up for an immediate disadvantage in the future. As the old saying goes, organisation is the key to success. If only I had known this when I was in school, then I would’ve been way more successful!

But it is the truth. Keep your notes, files and study materials ORGANISED from the start. It’ll save you a bucket load of unnecessary stress when you have an exam in a week’s time and you’ve decided it’s time to study. Instead of tearing apart your cluttered digs, save yourself the bother & keep your notes filed and organised from the very start! It will make studying 10x easier, less stressful and even perhaps a little bit fun! (What? No-one else likes those funky highlighter pens?)

2. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF ON NIGHTS OUT.
This is so, so important. In most college courses, there will be a lot of socialising on offer. Now, you might be a broke student like most of us, but it is extremely unlikely that you won’t go out for the night at least once over your whole three years, even if it’s not really your thing. Going out is perfectly FINE! Please don’t get me wrong. In fact, it’s healthy. As long as you take care of yourself. The sad truth is that not many people like the embarrassingly drunk clingy person they have to babysit all night. It’s okay to be this person once, or twice even, because we all make mistakes, and most people over-indulge when starting to socially drink. But once you get the hang of it and begin to understand your limits, it shouldn’t happen to you again. If it does, you’ll just get a bad reputation, and of course embarrass yourself, and possibly do stupid things.

Get healthily tipsy if you like, but please, do not get intoxicated. It’s not worth it! Any night you can’t remember from alcohol was NOT a good night. Don’t allow older students to talk you into drinking yourself to stupidity. It’s NOT cool, fun or even worth it. Plus it’s a giant waste of money. Many young people don’t realise the position they’re putting themselves into when they get so intoxicated. People could take advantage of you, you mightn’t get safely home, you could get robbed, murdered or raped. Avoid at all costs getting yourself into this situation. And don’t land it on a friend to mind you either! It’s not fair on them. Hey, if you need to make the mistake once or twice, that’s fine, but don’t make it a regular thing. Save yourself the embarrassment, blurry memory and regrets!

Also, be VERY weary when accepting a drink off a stranger at the bar. You don’t know who they are. They could honestly be anyone, and no matter how good-looking the individual is, they COULD spike your drink. Never assume a stranger on a night out is safe. You have to always keep your wits about you, there are a lot of weirdos out there!

3. BUDGET YOUR MONEY WELL.
As most of you probably know, being a student generally means being short of money. There are LOADS of expenses a student has…tuition fees, living costs, books, travel, stationary, socialising, the list goes on. So from the start, I’d advise being very careful with your money.

Even if you only have a small bit of money weekly, there are ways around it to ensure you get the most value from your money. If you’re living away from home, grocery shopping can be difficult at first. Always try your best to buy the shop brands, not the well-known ones (ie. Supervalu beans instead of Bachelors) They’re nearly always cheaper. As for household essentials like soap and toilet paper, don’t constantly assume your housemates will sort it out! Take turns to buy stuff like that… Equally, don’t be the good guy always buying the household stuff because it’ll just automatically become your duty and that’s not fair either!

For travel expenses, make sure to always make full use of your Student Travelcard (You can apply for this on entry to your college) It means cheaper bus and railway fares, and additional discounts in certain shops, restaurants and online booking! You’d be astonished at how much you can save with your Travelcard. Don’t put it off. Get it sorted as soon as you can!

Finally, don’t blow all your money on alcohol. As I said previously, it’s not worth it, and most certainly it’s not value for money. Set aside a small amount for socializing weekly, but avoid neglecting day-to-day necessities like food or water just to binge drink. You will become unwell and unhealthy, and it’s not wise to put your education at risk for alcohol.

4. FORGET THE PEER PRESSURE.
If you don’t want to drink, don’t drink. If you don’t want to go out, don’t go out. If you don’t want to ditch class, don’t ditch class. Don’t be ashamed of saying you’re going to study. If you feel ashamed, the friends you’re with are probably not the best for making you feel that way. If you find yourself making excuses to get out of doing X, Y and Z, the people aren’t right for you.

Not to worry though. Generally there are plenty of people in college with you. You don’t have to dedicate yourself to these same peer pressure pros just because you’re scared you won’t find any other friends. Of course you will! If they’re not in your class, don’t panic. Join clubs and societies, start a study club, attend piano lessons. Meet people in any occasion you can!

Don’t limit yourself to certain people you don’t even like for three years (What on earth is the point in that?) Essentially, if your so-called ‘friends’ are pressurizing you into doing ANYTHING, they’re not your friends. And if they ridicule you for making up your own mind about it, that’s your signal to move on. Don’t allow yourself to ever feel embarrassed or ashamed just for not being their idea of ‘normal’.

They might fancy themselves cool, but people will respect you a lot more if you make up your own mind instead of letting other people to do it for you. And there is a big difference between being ‘college cool’ and actually being cool. Because in the latter, it’s for the right reasons.

5. BE PUNCTUAL.
Try your very best to be on time from the start. You don’t want to get into the habit of being late all the time and missing important notes or lessons. Remember: a future employer three or four years down the line might decide to contact your previous lecturer, and they won’t be hesitant to say your punctuality was terrible if that was the case. So, get into the right habits from the start. If you don’t, it may come back to haunt you in the end, either for a future employer OR an exam which you’ve missed crucial information for. Also, in the workforce, they won’t put up with unexplained absentees and lateness. You’ll get fired! So prepare yourself from the very beginning. And remember: it isn’t like school. They won’t give out to you for not going in. It’s YOUR responsibility now, so be responsible!

6. REMAIN POSITIVE ABOUT PART-TIME WORK.
Don’t listen to the government. If you’re looking for part time work as a student, it is VERY difficult. I won’t lie about that. But it is NOT impossible (nothing is). I was unsuccessful this year, but I am more confident about the upcoming weeks. Below are the steps I would advise in finding part time work during college (Just my opinions, if something else worked for you, that’s fine. These are the steps I am planning to take:)

a) The right CV: You want a CV that is visually attractive, but no longer than two pages. Some things are unnecessary to mention in your CV. If an employer looks at it and on the first page your Junior Cert results are glaring at them, this isn’t giving a good impression. Leaving Cert/LCA results are good to include, if that’s your most recent qualification. But employers aren’t interested in your Junior Cert results anymore. You should also have two decent references. One should preferably be a previous employer if you have worked before. If not, ask your old school Principal, someone you volunteered for, or even the manager of seasonal work you did last year. Anybody you think. As long as you did some form of work for them, and you did it successfully; and as long as they like you and will give you a good reference!

b) Handing in your CV: When handing in a CV, ask to speak to the manager. When you get face-to-face to him/her, be as friendly as you can. Don’t look dull and hand him a CV and then leave. They’ll forget you 2 days later. Make an impact on the Manager. Have a small chat with him/her. Explain your situation, say you’re a student who is desperately looking for work, that you’re an incredibly hard-worker and would be privileged to work in their company. Perhaps even expand on that by saying you’re a regular customer to the particular company. Hopefully, the Manager in question will be friendly. If not, do not get discouraged. It is nothing to do with your character; just their personal dislike for their job.

After you have your chat with the Manager, hand him/her the CV and leave. If they haven’t gotten back to you in a week’s time, return to the company. Again, ask to speak to the Manager. When face-to-face, ask the Manager if he looked at your CV. Say once again that you would be so grateful to work for the company and would appreciate any work at all. He will probably say he’ll do what he can. Return 2-3 days later if he still hasn’t gotten back to you. Ask to speak to him again, and this time offer to do an unpaid few weeks of work. Say that you would love the experience and opportunity. Continue to hound the Manager (in a friendly way, of course) until you get results.

You may be put to work in the company unpaid for two weeks. Now, something may or may not come from this. The ultimate plan of course is to make your mark in the company and prove yourself. After the trial, return to the Manager a week or so later and ask would he please consider you for any upcoming work opportunities. At this stage, he/she knows you well. You’ve worked for his/her company, you’ve made your mark. You’ve done what you can. After that, it’s up to the Manager.

Well guys, that’s it. That’s my advice! I hope I may have helped some student somewhere in the country (or even abroad). Remember, being a student will be great fun… Just avoid making silly mistakes! All my advice is just my opinions of course. They’re not fact, but I hope someone could’ve benefited. Wishing every one of you the utmost success in your studies!

What to do with your life

Let’s face it, very few of us know what we want to do with our lives. From the minute we enter teenage-hood, there are pressures and expectations hitting us in the face to go to college and so forth. Consequently, we have college drop outs or youngsters packing their bags for the sole purpose of partying for three years. But, how do we as a nation rectify this problem?

Personally, I feel it is not the duty of the higher authorities; but the duty of the individual himself. Young people need to get the courage back to say “no” to college if they want to, to say “yes” to being an artist. Unfortunately, it is made difficult when the pressures of college are shoved down their throats at such an early age.

A wise woman once told me that if you’re ever struggling to know what you want to do with your life, you should return to childhood. As a child, what was your lifetime goal? To be a singer, dancer, comedian? To be an ice-cream truck driver, a fireman, a vet, a policeman, a secretary, an estate agent, the President of Ireland or a factory worker? I’m sure most of us have memories of our childhood goals in life. I recall wanting to be a hairdresser or a vet. As I grew older, I continued to like hair, but realised I wouldn’t like to pursue a career in the area. As for being a vet, I wouldn’t have a clue about the animal biology, and it would kill me to have to deal with sick animals, because I love animals.

You may think my example is a bit silly. But the point I am trying to make is we should ALL attempt to resort back to our childhood goals. Because generally they were truth, and they were passionate. We all may decide to pursue a different path in later life, but our childhood goals contained a passion in which we so often lose whilst growing up. So, recall your childhood passion. How did you feel when you wanted to be an internationally rich and famous singer? Did you feel confident, passionate and sure it would happen? If so, you need to get this mentality back. In order to succeed, we all need an element of that childlike passion and confidence.

What do you want to do with your life? Well, if you’re 12 years old and you don’t know… That is NORMAL. Don’t allow a peer or teacher to tell you otherwise. And as for those people in your class who claim they want X, Y and Z from life, they’re not sure. Trust me, they’re not sure. It’s good they have an idea, it’s good they have a goal. But in a matter of years, months or even days everything could change for this person. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Because the truth is, no-one knows until they are actually doing it. A medicine student could spend eight years training to be a doctor, then when qualified realise it’s not what they even want to do. Now, many of them will decide to stick with it nonetheless. The fact that thousands of euro was invested into their education, and the fact that they will now be on a very high wage for some time MAY be what will keep them there.

But how happy will they be? It seems we live in a nation where happiness is put secondary to a good job. But why is this the case? Out of my life, I want to have happiness! Being financially comfortable would be an advantage of course, but what would be the point if I didn’t even enjoy the job?

How many burnt out teachers do you know? I’ve encountered plenty. These people became teachers and went to work in the field, only then to discover they didn’t even like it. Undoubtedly, a secure job kept them there, even though they remained miserable for several years in the profession. And then, a poor innocent 13 year old gets landed with the bitter teacher – the burnt out teacher. And suddenly, his life is stressful and panicked because the bitter, burnt out teacher takes out her frustration on the child.

Why don’t these same teachers quit? Seems logical to me. Why remain in a painfully hard and unsatisfactory profession just for the pay?

It’s not just teachers or doctors. You see it across the whole working force. Equally, you encounter cashiers and waitresses who are bubbly, kind and happy in their post; although undoubtedly, they were discouraged from entering the field in the first place by the education system and their families. So, the point I’m trying to make is… Please do what you want to do. Forget about the wage for a minute. If you’re planning on being a doctor because of the pay, snap out of it. If your lifetime ambition was to be a builder, or a painter, or a cashier, or a postman – then go for it. I’ve been through the education system, and they have discouraged certain career paths. Which is rubbish. Do what you wish to do – always.

If you’re young and you don’t know what you want to do, do not jump into anything. You’ll end up regretting it in later life; and you’ll become bitter and resentful to the wisecrack who made the decision for you in the first place.

Be happy. Happiness is priceless. Money may buy you stability, but too much of it is unnecessary, and shouldn’t be enough to draw you into any life path. Don’t be miserable in a fancy job. Get out there, explore, have fun, live and learn. After that, the rest is easy as ABC.