College Survival ‘toolkit’

Third-level education can be both exciting and daunting for a new student. There are many new experiences to be enjoyed and savoured, but there are also many new demands and challenges that must be coped with as you move through and successfully complete this stage of your education. Even at the best of times, many new students will confront difficulties, which they may be unable to handle alone. There are, however, well-developed student support services within the Institute and it is important to remember that you should never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Coping with your studies can be made a lot easier if you build up a good ‘tool kit’ of coping strategies. The following coping suggestions are drawn from the experience of students who have successfully dealt with the demands of college life.


Think critically about your study habits. Don’t assume that the methods that got you by in school will be suitable for college. Seek advice about developing effective study skills. Good study skills will allow you to learn material thoroughly and permanently.

Learn how to organise and plan your time. Start by working out how much time you actually have and then plan a realistic schedule. You can begin today by listing the things that you plan to do on the following day on a 3” by 5” card.

Don’t leave practical work assignments to the last minute. This is a recipe for disaster in college and will put you under a lot of unnecessary pressure.

Get assignments completed early and out of the way. If you come across material that you don’t understand, make a note of it and then bring it to the attention of your tutor/lecturer. Buy textbooks early. If you are told what topics are going to be covered in your next lecture then preview that topic in the textbook. This will give you a head start and later on you will be very glad that you did. If you have difficulty concentrating when reading then get into the habit of asking questions. If you can’t think of any yourself then turn headings into questions. These questions will force you to concentrate. Practise reciting new material (aloud if possible) as often as you can. Ask yourself questions and then recite the answers in your own words, then check for accuracy. This will help to embed the ideas/facts into your memory. Check our tips on Time Management.


Every student feels stressed at some time or other. Relieving this stress is often a matter of breaking old habits and developing new ones. Click here for techniques of stress reduction. When things really get on top of you, do remember that this is only a temporary state and that you can work your way out of it. The surest way to do this is to identify the most urgent tasks and pitch into them, one at a time, setting aside all the rest for the time being.

Once you have disposed of these, you will feel more in charge of the situation. Being mentally and physically relaxed is exactly what you need for success in your academic life. So take some time to think about the consequences of any habits that affect your mental and physical health. A good diet and regular exercise will greatly enhance your mental as well as physical well being. Think also about some of the self-statements that you may make. Sometimes you can make a bad situation even worse by worrying and thinking negatively about yourself. Believe that you are in control and that you can find a solution to any problem or crisis.

Some students can feel overwhelmed by the experience of studying at times, especially when they have to deal with additional personal problems. If you need assistance in getting through college, or if you just need to talk about the things that may be getting to you, do not hesitate to contact the student counselling service

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