Students of every generation have been told the same thing: “Enjoy your time in college now, it flies by!”

While that saying passed down to us might be overused, it remains true. Perhaps in a world of widespread unemployment and a bleak economic situation, it’s more important than ever to make the most of our time in third level education.

Our college experience may only last a few years, but it means so much more in terms of making friends, growing up and realising who we really are. However, it is crucial to throw yourself into this experience from the word go in order to really feel the benefits of it.

Keeping things balanced is key to getting the most out of college life. The freedom that comes with going to college is amazing, and no one can blame you for partying hard during the first few weeks. Just remember that going out drinking every night can render the college experience as empty as the glass of your last pint. On the other hand, don’t handcuff yourself to your laptop to get that essay done. Your social life doesn’t need to be sacrificed in order to pass exams, and academic things shouldn’t have to suffer if you want to make friends. Keep on top of your work, it’ll mean less stress at the end of the semester and more time to have fun.

Joining a club or society is an absolute must if you want to fully enjoy student life. Almost all clubs and socs offer weekly events, parties and the occasional trips abroad, so it’s well worth joining one, two or maybe five! Do a bit of research before they start recruiting and see what you’re interested in. Most colleges will have a Clubs and Socs ball at some stage during the academic year, which is another incentive to joining one. Around €5 a year isn’t much compared how much you get from them.

One of the most important parts of college life is socialising. While some freshers revel in meeting new people, others can find themselves cut off by nerves and homesickness. Shyness must be one of the biggest inhibitors of students, first years or otherwise. However, it’s never too late to make new friends, even if you’ve been a student for a while. Don’t be afraid to make converstion with others, whether they are roommates, classmates or even students from other years. You will find it gets easier as time goes on. Sometimes just making an effort with someone new is enoug. Remember even a new semester marks a fresh start. Its unlikely you will be friends with everyone on campus, but making the effort certainly pays off.

On a final note, always be sure to use your student status to your advantage. Around for Orientation week? Grab those free goodie bags like your life depends on it. Are those train tickets too pricey? Whip out your trusty student card. If that isn’t making the most of your third level education, I don’t know what is.