30 Nov 2021

Managing college

Operation Transformation psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy has some advice on how to adjust to life at third level.

Operation Transformation psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy has some advice on how to adjust to life at third level.

Participate in events early on. Some of the events aimed at first-year students may not be totally exciting. Tours of the library and the grounds may not be your thing, but they connect you to the campus, help you meet people, and prepare you for academic success. The majority of people take on this venture alone and so making friends is an important aspect of college life. The beginning of college brings with it an opportunity to make a vast array of friends. Try and attend the college’s clubs and society’s day, which allows you to join any club or society within the college. Join the ones you have a thorough interest in as you are likely to get on well with the other members in the group and will make friends easily this way.

Additionally, try and participate in some new activities. Colleges around Ireland provide a wide range of resources when it comes to recreational activities. It may be your only opportunity to get involved in some extravagant sporting activities, so make use of what is being offered. There are also ample opportunities to get involved in voluntary work. From such work you will gain skills and experience in listening, interpersonal relationships and gain confidence in yourself.

Go to class. Studying at third level differs in many ways from experiences at second level. The key difference at university is an emphasis on self-directed learning. As a student, it is your responsibility to take care of your academic responsibilities, such as attending lectures and tutorials, doing research in the library, or writing assignments to a deadline. College is an amazing experience, but you can’t stay if you fail your courses. Missing class is one of the worst things you can do. Your goal in college is to graduate, while at the same time having some fun.

Learn how to say “No.” This may be one of the most challenging skills to learn when you’re first in college. College life provides various opportunities to take part in fun activities – these may be in the form of societies or clubs, but saying “yes” to everything that sounds fun, interesting, and exciting will lead you to trouble. Your academics will suffer, your time management will be horrible, and you’ll burn yourself out.

Ask for help before it’s too late. If you do find yourself in a position where you have burned yourself out and taken on to much, the most important thing you can do is ask for help. Colleges are generally pretty good places for seeking out help; no one there wants to see you do poorly. If you’re struggling in a class, ask your lecturer for help or go to a tutoring centre. In the majority of third level colleges they have developed specific centres for those students who have difficulty with the basics such as Maths and English. If you’re having a hard time adjusting, talk to someone in the counselling centre. Fixing a smaller problem is almost always easier than fixing a big one.

Nervous about being away from home. It is normal to feel a bit nervous as you prepare to move away from home. This can be hard, especially for the first time. But once you settle in and make friends, this feeling will ease. This is what the college experience is all about, learning to stand on your own two feet – it’s as much about personal development as it is about academic development. Homesick. It is typical that you will miss all kinds of people back at home. Managing a long-distance relationship can be hard, but it doesn’t have to mean you can’t stay. You can miss someone and still make it in college. Think of all the easy ways to keep in touch with your family and friends – they are only a phone call away. It will make you stronger as a person if you stay and live away from home – there’s always the weekends to see your loved ones.

Skills that will help you on your journey through college. Throughout your years at college, you will find yourself in various situations and the following skills might help you cope better. Such skills include flexibility, openness and discipline. Furthermore try and embrace diversity during your time in college, as you will come across an assortment of people, with different attitudes, sexuality and beliefs.

Drinking Matters. The start of college brings with it a surge in your independence. You no longer have parents or guardians telling you what to do or what time to be home at – so it’s important that you take this independence with a little maturity. This is also a time where you will be tempted to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Be aware that excessive drinking can have many consequences such as unprotected sex, aggressive behaviour and assaults, vandalism and injury. Pace yourself while drinking with peers and only drink what you feel comfortable drinking.

Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychology and counselling practice in Portarlington, helping with panic attacks, anxiety, anger, depression, PTSD, etc for children, adults and families. Call 087 1302899 or visit

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