Starting college in 2020 | Advice for Young People | Jigsaw

Starting college in 2020

Starting college in 2020

Thursday, 17 September 2020

There’s a big emphasis placed on starting college – it’s a chance to make new friends, pursue your own interests, and increase your independence. But this year, that experience is totally different. COVID-19 has changed a lot of ways of life, with one of the biggest impacts being on education.  

This is the first generation of students to go to college without sitting the Leaving Certificate. For many, college offers have been made on the basis of predicted grades. Such a massive change to our educational systems can bring up a range of feelings from relief to uncertainty and everything in between.

There is no right way to feel about this. Any type of transition can be emotionally challenging as we learn to cope with change.  However, given the uniqueness of this year, the journey into college might present some distinct challenges. 

person taking notes on a laptop
Frustration that you’re not getting that “college experience” may emerge.


With more classes online, you may have had to stay at home instead of living in college accommodation. Parents may have asked that you attend a local university close to home, instead of options in the city. Some people have decided to defer the year, so that when they start college they are more likely to be able to be on campus and in classrooms.

The impact of Covid on college life may feel overwhelming. Frustration that you’re not getting that “college experience” may emerge.

Not getting your course 

Not getting your preferred course is a hard reality to deal withWe’re living in such a competitive world, with pressure to be constantly achieving. Not getting what you tried for can cause sadness or confusion

With the added complexities of the abrupt closure of schools and no exams, you might feel that you’d have done better if the year had gone on as planned. This can compound the feeling of loss and disappointmentIt’s important to mind yourself, and if needed get support with managing low mood or anger as a result.  

One way to deal with disappointment is to develop a plan. You might want to appeal, so research your options.  Consider that there are other ways to get to where you want, like work experience, PLC courses or applying as a mature student. Or you might try a different course, and find out that you prefer it! 

Either way, don’t give up on your dreams. It might take a bit of perseverance, but as the saying goes – what’s for you won’t pass you.  


Feeling like a fraud

Perhaps predicted grades worked in your favour and you got onto a course you never thought you would.  Or maybe you feel you don’t deserve to be in college because you never sat the Leaving Cert.  This feeling of being a fraud can loom over you, and cause anxiety that’s hard to contain.  

Some young people may seem excited about college when deep down they’re wondering if they’ll belong and fearing they’ll fail.  If you find your thoughts heading in this direction, challenge yourself to be more compassionate.


  • Sharing how you’re feeling with someone else. You can realise that there are others in the same boat!
  • Separate feelings from fact – just because you feel out of place, doesn’t mean that you are
  • Remind yourself that you deserve to be here as much as anyone else.  

Studying at home  

Colleges are currently sorting out how to deliver their courses safely. Most are taking a blended approach with many tutorials and classes happening online. Some of us prefer working from home. However, for others it’s a struggle.

Either way, in college students are required to study more outside of class than in, and that might be a lot more personal responsibility than we’re used to

We all know that studying can be hard even in the best of timesRoutines and structure create predictability. Starting good habits at the beginning of the year makes them easier to maintain, so try a few of our tips here for self-directed learning.  

Social connection 

College can feel like a big place. With social distancing and perhaps less face to face interaction, you may be feeling worried about the social side of things

The pandemic has forced us to come up with new and creative ways to connect.  Don’t be afraid to break the ice and start the conversation with people on your course, even if this is via Facetime or Messenger.

You are on this strange journey together which, is a great bonding experience. Making study groups, joining clubs, hosting outdoor BBQ’s or movie nights can spark a lifelong friendship. There are many ways to find your tribe at college.  

Give yourself time

Everyone’s been saying it, but that’s because it’s true. It will take time to adjust. Time for the colleges to adjust, for students, family and friends. Times of transition can often feel stressful.  So be kind to yourself.

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