Current Mood: weary/dead tired/ just plain exhausted

The Problem: college life has begun in earnest and my Psychology teacher said when he looked out the classroom window that “summer ends when college begins”


The past couple of weeks I have been revving up to start college*. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t all excited about it like a preppy schoolgirl — the interview last month was nerve wracking (though I don’t know why because it was just basically a way for the staff to put faces to names), and the Induction Day last week might have been hell, but I chalk it all up to the many times I had to climb up and down four flights of stairs. On the plus side, I made tentative friendships with people in my so-called tutor group.

Today has been the official First Day — yes, capital letters and all. My first and only lesson for the day has been A2 Psychology; tomorrow is when I’ll be having all of my three lessons. I guess I’m glad I’ve only had one lesson, though I’m of mixed minds because:

  1. Monday morning Psych class starts at 9, meaning I had to wake up at 6 AM in order to catch the train.
  2. Monday morning Psych class lasts for two hours and fifteen minutes so yay! I’m finally learning again. What can I say, I like learning new stuff.

I’m still achy and sore from all the commuting I did. (That’s not a good thing.) Whilst I was on the train station, however, my mind sort of wandered and I began thinking hey, I’m not the only person in who’s starting up college. The college staff may have forewarned its students what to expect/not expect academic-wise, but have they really explained what students can expect on a more personal level? I’m the eldest in my family so I don’t have any elder siblings to give my advice, and my friends are either going to university or taking a gap year.

So… here goes:

First Day of College: What To Do and Not To Do

(by someone who is learning the ropes as she go along)

Bring a notebook and a pen

This may seem like common sense, but you are in college out of your own choosing and to show up without any means of taking down notes indicates a lack of planning that your teachers may not appreciate. Not to say that you have to impress your teachers all the time (or even at all), but they are part of the recommendation process that UCAS goes through if you want to go to university.

Also, where will you doodle when if the lessons becomes boring? Certainly not your own hand, you don’t have a pen! Ha.

Plan your journey to the campus

If your college campus is on a completely different town like mine is, it’s really helpful to plan how you will get there on time. I personally do not drive and am an avid fan of walking, so I rely heavily on public transport. I’m a bit strapped for cash as well so I alternate between the bus and the train, depending on what time my classes begin.

If you’re travelling by bus:

  • know which buses go to or near the campus; are there any special services that specifically stop by the college or do you have to find one that requires a bit of walking?
  • familiarize yourself with the timetables; how often does this service come and go, and are there any alternate bus routes that you can use?
  • know how many stops there will be, if any and in all seriousness DO NOT FALL ASLEEP AND MISS YOUR STOP because that is just embarrassing both to the bus conductor and yourself. And no, I am not speaking from personal experience…
  • lastly, find out if you can have discount on your ticket; some people save money by buying a weekly saver ticket, and the Arriva bus company do student discount as well

If you’re travelling by train:

  • know which trains go to the town/city wherein your campus is situated; how far is it from the campus itself and if it’s quite far, do you need to take a bus, a taxi, or walk to get there? Basically, is the train travel worth it if there is another avenue of travel, i.e. buses
  • again, familiarize yourself with the timetables. It’s best to do this every day because you never know if certain stops are cancelled, or if certain journeys are early/late/what have you
  • get a 16-25 Railcard. It costs £30 a year or £70 for three years, which entitles you to 30% off train fares and, depending on what time classes start (after 9 AM, specifically), this can be cheaper than an average adult bus ticket, return or single
  • finally, this might be common sense but please, please, please GET ON THE RIGHT TRAIN because that swooping sensation in your stomach once you find out you’re going in the wrong direction to where you’re supposed to be… well, it’s not a nice feeling

I mentioned above that I don’t drive, but why not make it three of three:

  • know the route(s) that you will need to take to get to the college; will you go through a motorway, obscure streets, etc.
  • find out how long the journey will take you in case you run late; tardiness does not show professionalism and can make you look like you’re not taking your lessons seriously. Also, keep in mind of traffic and any, heaven forbid, accidents that may deter you
  • have a cool tune to sing along to in the radio because music is awesome
  • and most importantly, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE FUEL IN THE TANK

To close this section, may I just say that Google Maps is your friend. Love it and give it presents for Christmas. Treat it for coffee every once in a while.

Bring some water and a snack

If by chance you get lost during a break between lessons, it’s good to have a bottle of water to hand because believe me, long corridors and horrendous stairs are not your friends. HYDRATE. And if you do end up missing your entire lunch break looking for your next class (or, you know, just a way out of the labyrinth), munch on some biscuits or an apple or Yorkie bar to tide you over.

When you do find the canteen, try not to get your hopes up. College canteen food is still food from the canteen.

Dress for comfort

Whether you’re into crop tops or track suit bottoms, dress in whatever you feel comfortable in. You’re not in school anymore; this isn’t Sixth Form where business style clothing is a must. You are attending college because you are trying to learn, and if wearing that trendy concealed wedge heel trainers is distracting you from the assignment, then perhaps you need to reconsider your choices.

These are hell in a hand basket after three or so hours of walking.

Take initiative

Lastly, I think taking initiative is pretty common sense. At college, you stand in a more equal footing with teachers than you have been in school and/or Sixth Form. For one thing, there are no Mr So-and-So and Ms What’s Her Name. Just call them by their first names and it’s all cool. There’s this concept of equal respect between teachers and students that I quite like, so take initiative and

  • take part in lessons, group work, and all that jazz
  • if you’re behind on a certain topic, go to the library and read about it
  • join a student society; be a well-rounded person
  • indulge in that primo mocha latte first thing in the morning so that you can STAY AWAKE during class

In the end, you are responsible for your time in college. It’s you who has a lot to lose if you get bad grades, if you show up late half the time, or even if you keep forgetting that pesky pen that you were sure you placed in your bag. Moreover, learning and studying and being all academic is all good, but don’t forget to have fun. Make friends, because the way I see it, college is a transitory phase between school and university.

Universities only care if you pay the course fees and get the grades.

— says my Psych teacher this morning

They treat you like an adult in college. I think it’s because, strictly speaking, you are an adult — either by the eyes of the educational system where you are no longer obligated to stay in school after GCSEs, or by the law the moment you turn 18. I’m enjoying the experience so far, even though I’ve physically been to my college only four times. I’m just waiting for the moment I snap and do a complete 180, bemoaning the early days and the workload woes, but until then… I’m going to have fun.

Over and out.

New Mood: cathartic

*By college, I do mean the British meaning of the term and not the American one. From the way I understand it, American college is similar to British universities where you can do undergraduate study and continue to postgraduate if you choose to. The college I’m talking about teach on the A-levels like Sixth Form at schools, but they also do courses where you end up with a degree.