Student Rep for the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences Amy Poland gives students both new and returning her top tips to make the most of college.
First thing’s first: congratulations! You’ve survived the Leaving Cert, made it to University, and finally trudged through orientation – none of which are easy feats, so give yourself a pat on the back. But after that back-pat, what’s next? To help answer that question, I’ve compiled a handy list of things I wish someone had told me in my first year of University.
Your timetable is your new best friend
If you haven’t yet figured out your timetable, have no fear. Here’s a quick low-down of how to figure out where you’re supposed to be and when: check out your course on the UCC Book of Modules to get your module codes (e.g. EN1003), google timetable.ucc.ie/module.asp and enter the required details. Alternatively, you can use mytimetable.ucc.ie and follow a very similar process. There are a bunch of timetable templates available online for you to fill out your schedule in a way comprehensible to you (personally, I think plenty of colour). If you’re anything like me and have a barely-there memory, take a picture of your timetable for easy access when you’re running through campus.
Blackboard (because you’ll hear about it everywhere)
Blackboard is going to be both your saviour and the bane of your existence for the duration of your degree. Here you will find course documents, lecture updates, assignments, grades and Turnitin. Turnitin is what you’ll be submitting assignments through, and it has this neat (and sometimes anxiety-inducing) feature that calculates the percentage of plagiarism in any given essay. Make sure you learn how to reference, and you’ll be in the clear. To log in, search blackboard.ucc.ie and enter your student number and password (if you ever forget your password, the lovely people at the helpdesk in the Boole Basement will help you out). Use those same details to log into mystudentadmin.ucc.ie, which is where you’ll find your overall grade at the end of the academic year.
Reap the benefits of being a student
Although some people may argue that benefits are far and few between, you have to take what you can get. Not only does your student card grant you access to the library and the Mardyke gym, but it can also unlock a whole new world of discounts: cinema tickets, shops, travel, and food – all at way more affordable rates. All you need to do is ask if a student discount is available and have your student card on your person. Collegetimes.com usually keeps updated with all of the new discounts and deals available just for students. Go forth and save!
Figure your life out
I don’t mean that in an existential sense; you have years to sort that out. Rather, for the following few weeks, it’s important to set up a routine that you can follow throughout the rest of the academic year. Set achievable goals. No one expects you to get up at 6am to go to the gym and then survive a day filled with lectures (that said, entrance to the Mardyke gym is free for students and exercise is important – no matter how gruelling some of us may find it). Few people are able for that commitment. So organise a system that works for you: if you want to go out, go ahead – you do your thing. But make sure you can function the following day, because deadlines and exams can come around very quickly.
Check in with yourself
It’s so easy to start college off running and wear yourself down within the first few weeks, both physically and mentally. So it’s important to make sure your health is your priority, whether that’s by taking supplements, going to the doctor, taking time out for yourself, or asking for help. There are plenty of helpful services within the college that will help you on your way. The Student Health Doctor (situated just across the road from the UCC gates on College Road) provides free consultations and STI screenings. Services such as contraception consultations, eye tests and vaccines are offered at a discounted price. A word of warning, however, is that because the service is free, the waiting room does tend to be full. So, either try to make an appointment in advance, or be prepared to wait a little while. A counselling service is also offered to students for free, and you can contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (021) 490 3565. The student counselling page of UCC.ie also provides a list of alternative ways to get what you need. This year’s Student Union Welfare Officer, Kelly Coyle, can also be contacted at email@example.com. You and your health come first!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you don’t understand something in a lecture, don’t be afraid to ask your lecturer to clarify. Go up to them after the class and ask questions, or contact them via email (a quick google of their name should supply you with their UCC contact details). Alternatively, you can always approach your elected Class Representative to do the dirty work for you. Which is a perfect little segueing onto my next point.
This is probably another one of those things you’ve heard plenty of times since you’ve come to UCC, but there’s a reason for that. Getting involved with at least one aspect of the student cohort – whether that’s going for a position on a club or society committee, or volunteering as a Class or Entertainment Representative – it’s worth it. It gives you the opportunity to come out of your shell, learn new things, meet new people – plus, it all looks great on your CV. Keep an eye out for posters around campus advertising Society and Club AGMs. As for class and entertainment reps – you might be asking what they do. Class reps become the voice for their class for the year. If there are any queries or concerns, students may go to them – and in turn the class rep can turn to their College Representative (more details to follow!) for answers and help. Class reps can also attend student council where important motions are passed and pizza is often consumed. They also meet with lecturers and staff to give feedback on how a course can be improved. Entertainment reps organise entertainment for the class, and can also look for support from their College Representative. If any of these roles sound even remotely appealing to you, point number nine is vital (even if you’re not into either of them, number 9 is still important – read on!)
Know your College Representatives
Your College Rep is your link to the Student Union. They will be appearing at your lectures to elect your Class and Entertainment Reps over the following weeks. They are also there to offer advice or answer any questions you may have – although you can also contact your Peer Support leader if you feel more comfortable! Each college has a representative that was elected in the last academic year. If you’re in the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences – then, hi! I’m Amy, your rep for the year! If you have any questions for your college reps about elections or anything, shoot us an email. We don’t bite!
Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences: Amy Poland, firstname.lastname@example.org
Science, Engineering and Food Science: Ronan Carey, email@example.com
Business and Law: Kayleigh O’Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Medicine and Health: Laura Mitchell, email@example.com
College life is a lot of things. It’s stressful, fun, and busy – all rolled into one. It can be the best time of your life, and I really hope it is. Take care of yourself, go to events, and make friends. You’re only in college once (well, that may be untrue depending on how long you cling to education), but in either case you might as well make the most of it!
If you have any queries or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact any member of the Student Union – we’re here to help. Go forth and prosper!