Your first year of college will be a cocktail of poor decisions, reckless behaviour and great memories. Here are some things that you definitely shouldn’t do, but probably will anyway.
1) Blowing All Your Money
So, that sweet grant money has finally come in and from now on you’re going to live like a king. For one whole week. The dollar signs will flash over your eyes and before you know it the money will have taken the form of Grey Goose and a swanky digital camera you’ll never quite get the hang of.
2) Going Out Every Night
Kind of related to blowing all your money, going out on the lash at every available opportunity is another rookie error. It might seem like a viable option for the first month or so, when the overwhelming sense of freedom is intoxicating, but after the hundredth can of Dutch Gold the existential dread will take over.
3) Dressing Up For Lectures
By the time Christmas rolls around you’ll barely manage to get dressed at all before stumbling into college, never mind putting on any airs and graces. That wardrobe you hauled halfway across the country will gather dust as you wear the same oversized hoodie and battered trackie bottoms every single day.
4) Going Shopping When You’re Hungry
Feeling a bit peckish? Better head down the shops and buy enough food to knock an elephant into a food coma. If you do the shopping when you’re already starving then you’ll end up giving into every single craving, leaving you with a balanced meal of pop tarts, chocolate digestives and frozen chips.
5) Not Tidying Up
It might be the last thing on your mind when there are cans to be drank, but if you keep on top of the cleaning from day one it’ll pay off. Nobody wants to be chasing the mice out of their once-lovely apartment by the time Halloween rolls around, no matter how much they add to the spooky ambiance.
6) Never Going to Class
I’d say I missed more classes than I attended the first time I tried to do the whole college thing and that didn’t work out very well for me at all. This is a pretty obvious one, but what’s the point in going to college in the first place if you’re not going to actually show up? Even if you rock up to the lecture hall semi-conscious and rattled from the night before, something might sink in and pop up again come exam time.
7) Not Studying Until The Night Before
Now I’m pretty sure that every third-level student in the history of the universe has pulled this manoeuvre at some point, but leaving everything until the night before is never worth it. You’ll probably manage to pass the exam, or get the essay in on time, but it’ll be obvious that you haven’t really taken it seriously.
8) Not Backing Up Your Work
Get an external hard-drive, or use Dropbox/Google Drive, because there is no more sickening feeling in the world than losing a three-thousand word essay you’ve just poured your heart and soul into. Or thrown together the night before it was due. Either way, periodically back-up your work and you won’t be subjected to the whims of temperamental technology.
9) Basing All Your Socialising Around Alcohol
I’ve often heard it said that you don’t really know someone until you’ve gotten drunk with them. True as that may be, the opposite is also true. If you only hang out with people when you’re all hammered then you won’t really get to know them. So join some societies or go for a coffee in between lectures, if you and your drinking buddies have nothing to say to each other when you’re sober then maybe you aren’t really friends after all.
10) Racking Up Library Fines
I have a confession to make. Some years ago, as a student of University College Dublin, I borrowed a copy of Henry IV, Part 2 from the library and I never returned it. Somehow I managed to slip through the cracks and escape any sort of fine. However, you may not be so lucky. So, while it’s admirable that you’ve checked out your entire reading list on day one, do remember to bring all those books back eventually.
11) Sticking To The First Person You Meet
It’s day one and you might be bricking it, but you’ve managed to engage in a friendly conversation with a classmate. Success! That’s it, job done. I don’t need any new friends, I’ve already got one. This might not be the best approach. Sure, it’s great that you’ve made a friend on the first day, but you haven’t made a lifelong commitment, so don’t feel obliged to stick with one person for the next four years.
12) Making A Name For Yourself On The First Night Out
Remember that guy who drank Buckfast from a shoe? Or the girl who tried to roundhouse kick the bouncer? Or the mature student who surfed down the stairs on the ironing board?
13) Losing Touch With Your Old Friends
You’ll be away from home, surrounded by exciting new things and exciting new people. You’ll be really busy, madly running around trying to keep on top of your college work and pretending to be a proper adult. It’s understandable if you don’t talk to your school friends every day like you used to, but do stay in touch with them or you might regret it somewhere down the line.
14) Shifting Your Housemate
Why go across the street, when you can go across the hall? You might be tempted to pull the moves on a housemate when it’s three in the morning and you’re going home with nothing but a bag of chips for company, but it’s a risky manoeuvre. No middle ground here either I’m afraid, you’ll either murder each other after a week or end up married.
15) Going Home Every Weekend
Not that you should feel bad if you do make the trip home every weekend, but think about staying away the odd time. You’ve probably got lots to do from Monday to Friday and very little time to do it. So the weekend can be a great time to do some exploring and really get to know your new home.
16) Let Yourself Be Homesick
Now, to totally contradict myself. You should try and immerse yourself in your new surroundings, but don’t worry if you miss your friends, your family and, most importantly, your dog. Moving away for college is a big step and it’s easy to be overwhelmed. So, if you’re craving one of Mammy’s dinners, go home at the weekend and get one.
17) Hiding In Your Room
Another one that I’ve been guilty of in the past. The first time I went to college, I couldn’t hack it at all so I just spent all my time hidden away in my room, wishing I was anywhere but UCD. I often wonder how different my life might have been if I’d just made the effort to get to know my housemates. Morrissey might have made the whole recluse thing cool, but you’re not Morrissey. Or maybe you are. (Hi Morrissey, thanks for the tunes.)
18) Buying Everything Brand New
Again, your intentions are admirable, but you absolutely shouldn't buy new copies of all your books. It's a total waste of money and you can get everything cheaper if you shop around. You aren't the first person to do your course, so that means there are second-hand copies of all the books you need floating around somewhere.
19) Pretending To Be Someone You're Not
College is one of the best opportunities you'll ever have to grow as a person. You could completely re-invent yourself if you really wanted to. When you're doing all this growing and figuring yourself out, don't pretend to be something you're not. You might think you look cool smoking a pipe and bemoaning the increasingly commercialised techno scene, but you don't.
20) Sticking With A Course You Hate
Another one that I've got plenty of experience with. I knew within the first month that I hated my course and I was never going to be happy in UCD. So, I left right away, yeah? Nope. I stuck it out for two years, convincing myself that things would get better soon. They didn’t. Obviously give yourself time to adjust, but if you know it's not for you, do something else. There's no shame in admitting defeat. You can change courses, come back to college when you're older or even never go back. It's not for everyone. Look at me, I dropped out of college once upon a time and next month I'll be graduating with a first in a useless film degree. Dream big.