It’s been well over a year since I completed university, and since finishing, I’ve had endless amount of time to reflect on my time as a student. As someone who was clueless when starting university, I look back and wish that I’d had someone to guide me from the get go. I don’t mean a college mentor, I mean a friend, a sibling, someone who could simply tell me the do’s and dont’s of college. Someone to tell me the importance of doing well. Below, I have listed a freshers guide from an ex students perspective. One which I hope resonates with you and educates you ahead of the college year. If you are in NUIG specifically, this article may stand to you, as my experience speaks from a time that I studied in Galway.
Whoever told you that the leaving cert exam was the biggest exam you’ll ever have to sit was slightly bending the truth. In fact, university exams mean a lot more, especially when you’re trying to go from an undergraduate degree to a Masters degree. Luckily for me, it wasn’t until second year that my grade criteria mattered, so by then I’d learned the importance of high grades the hard way. If you wish to achieve an honours degree, you need to reach a minimum percentage of 50%. 50-60% will classify you as a 2.2 honours graduate, a 2.1 degree being that small bit better and a 1.1 being the best grade achievable. What they don’t tell you is that in order to continue on and become something of yourself, you must meet one of 3 criteria’s, in order to get into a Masters Degree. I feel as though 18 year old students are all too relieved by the leaving cert coming to an end that they forget about their future responsibilities as a young adult. They’re led astray by late nights, wild dates and new friends. My best advice is to study to your best abilities. Avoid skipping too many lectures, as you will fall behind. Keep up to date with lecture notes by keeping safe copies for when study period commences. Remember who you were during your leaving cert and channel that attitude, channel the attitude that graced you with this college course!
One thing I regret avoiding in University is joining societies. I initially joined the Choral & Dance Soc, but soon forgot about these external activities, as nights on the town were soon substituted. I re evaluated my decision to join a society in my final year of university, so joined the fashion soc, and ended up leading as the event manager. These external activities look wicked on your CV, and they’ll make you friends for life. Be sure to find something of your interest and don’t be afraid to join! If you have a love for sports, be sure to get involved. There are endless amounts of activities on campus, and I promise that you’ll find one that suits you.
Know Your Student Union
Almost every college has a student union, equipped with a student body president and plenty of officers who will guide both your welfare and your education. The student union is there to provide a voice on behalf of the students. I was very lucky to have gotten involved as a campaign manager nearly every year in college, so I was given even greater insight into the amazing work that goes on behind the scenes in the Student Union. So when the February elections come along, be sure to get involved! Be kind to the campaign volunteers when they stop you to ask for your vote. And most of all, make sure you actually vote! As a student, you’re at total liberty to vote for various students, provided that they meet your interests, and are willing to have your voice heard! If it’s something that appeals to you, get involved! If you’re an NUIG student, you’ll find the student union offices in the Bailey Allen, where you can speak with some of the student officers regarding any problems you may have!
Make Use Of The Library
We live in a modern era where we have become highly dependent on google to source our answers. Although you may outsource many answers via google when studying for exams, it’s not ALWAYS the best database. Make use of Google Scholar if you wish to use the internet. Be sure to engage fully during your Introduction to Citations class, so you learn how to reference properly when essay writing. Many lecturers will reference quotations from library books. From my experience, a lot of students will avoid the effort of searching for a book in the library. Go to ALL library training, and pay attention. I promise you that making use of library books will do you wonders. Not only will your grades improve, but your ability to work independently will challenge you in wondrous ways.
Speaking of the library, when it comes to Christmas and Summer exams, do not be alarmed when you prance into college on the first day of study week at 11am, and every seat is preoccupied. At the end of the day, you’re competing against hundreds of students, students who will stand outside the library at 8:30am, awaiting the library stampede.
Use Your Student Loyalty/Benefits Card
I’m not sure if this exists in other Universities, but I can only assume it does. Many students live off a scanty budget, especially if you’re living away from home, so taking every bargain available to you is necessary. NUIG provide loyalty cards to students, providing benefits to each purchase made (for example, but ten tea’s and get the eleventh free- and so forth). You’ll be surprised at just how nifty this little benefit is, and it’ll teach you how to save your money at all costs.
Go On A College Trip
One of the best decisions I made in my final year of college was to go abroad. Arts Soc had arranged a very cheap trip abroad to Prague and I jumped at the opportunity. Not only does this venture give you the opportunity to see a new city, but you will make some amazing friends! That trip will resonate with me, as I made life long memories which we continue to laugh at to this day!
Take every opportunity at the crunch of your fingers when starting in University. Go out and have fun, but drink in moderation. Search for your individuality and seek those life long friends you deserve! Don’t shy away from experiences on your own. Join a society without your old secondary school friend. Play sports with new classmates! These new experiences are sure to broaden your horizon!
But most of all, live and breathe every second of it, as these are the best years of your life.