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!

Fuck You Very Much, Ireland.

Dear Ireland,

Ireland. A place of culture of heritage. A place well-known for its artistic ability, its musical talent. Ireland. The land of saints and scholars. The land of musicians, green flags, Guinness and good craic.

But beneath Ireland’s proud and talented exterior, there lies fraud, injustice and false awarding. You see, as a student in Ireland, I have felt the pinch more-so than I dare to admit. I’m from Roscommon, and there aren’t any third-level institutes there. There is Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), but not many courses there appeal to me. There is National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), and Galway-Mayo Instititute of Technology (GMIT), an hour’s drive from my home. There is Sligo Institute of Technology an hour away from my home. But without the aid of Dublin Bus services in the west, it is impossible to commute from one to the other as a Student. This leaves no choice for students in the west but to rent accommodation near their selected Institute, which usually costs about €300 a month.

In the end, I decided to pursue my talents and interests, and applied to Ballyfermot College of Further Education to study Television and Digital Film. Although there is a Film and Television course in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, I decided to go to Ballyfermot. The course I am studying is a one-year course, and I thought it was best to get a taster of the area before I plunged straight into an intense degree.

Not that it would make much difference if I studied a one-year course in this area in Galway, as I would also have to rent accommodation there, which costs more or less the same as accommodation in Dublin.

Now, as a Student in Dublin, my living costs are extortionate when you take into account I am forced to rely on my parent’s income, when they are struggling financially as it is. I pay €90 a week on accommodation; (this is in a ‘digs’ arrangement, so I get meals, too) I pay €25.50 on a Student Return ticket from my hometown to Dublin, and back again, every weekend. I pay €16.50 a week on a Student Weekly Bus Ticket. €136.50 is spent already, only for the essentials, only in one week. Then, I’m usually given a further €8-€15, (depending on that week’s finances), on spending money. Normally, I’m given €150 a week for everything.

€150 a week, for the right to an education? €600 a month, for the right to an education? About €4,200 a year, for the right to an education?

You may have stopped reading right about now, as you’re sick of my pointless rambling and complaining. But I have a point, I swear!

Since beginning my course in Ballyfermot, I have encountered other students who are entitled to Back to Education Allowance. When I found out I had gotten a place on my current course, for a brief moment, I was naive enough to think that I was entitled to BTEA.

The conditions of Back to Education Allowance strictly state that the individual applying for this financial aid must have been out of education for at least 2 years. I was out of education for almost one year in 2010-2011; I was therefore not applicable for the financial aid I so desperately need.

Furthermore, students who, quite frankly, do not deserve or need this financial aid are being granted it without any hassle whatsoever. I have encountered students who spend their Back to Education Allowance on drugs and alcohol, not even appreciating what they have. Aside from this, there are students in their early to mid 20’s getting Back to Education Allowance when they live in walking distance from their college, which means they don’t have travel expenses. And what about the Grant? Students living at home, who don’t have to pay rent, are being entitled to this financial support, without trouble also. I’m not entitled to either. My parents have been struggling financially for a lot of my upbringing, they still do struggle. But still, their income is ‘too high’ for entitlement to a grant for myself, my brother or my sister.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone deserves a chance. Everyone SHOULD have the right to an education, but we live in an Ireland that has, quite frankly, fucked us over. We have returned to a time where education is becoming a luxury, a thing offered to students with rich parents.

We live in an land of culture, of music, of art, of fun. But all of this heritage has been smothered by the clear injustice going on in our Ireland. I used to be so proud of you, Ireland, but lately, I struggle to see anything you’ve done right for me. You haven’t looked out for people like me, you’ve ignored us, you’ve used us, you’ve abused us.

Aside from BTEA and the Grant aid, what other financial aid is offered to Students? It is expected that parents on a minimum wage can afford to send 1, 2, 3 or more students off to college? How unrealistic is this? How unfair is this? But most importantly, how corrupt is this?

Get a part-time job, I hear you say. It seems I spend my life applying for some sort of part-time employment, both online and through handing in CV’s. The majority of employers seem to not even have the decency to contact me back.

So, fuck you very much Ireland. You’ve wronged me, left me out, betrayed me. But, maybe someday I’ll forgive you. Only if you stop throwing our wads of cash, earned by the working Ireland, to imbeciles not even appreciating their education, not even appreciating their chance. You’re handing out money to support drugs and alcoholism, from what I can tell.

Perhaps a better system would be checking what these students are spending their ‘free money’ on. Perhaps then, people who need the money will get first preference, and these students wont be rewarded for laziness any longer.

But, in a corrupt Ireland, I’ll be waiting, and waiting, and such a skill of logic will never come by…

Yours faithfully,

Aisling Kelleher.