The Laidlaw Scholarship application process as a person with a Disability -Harry O’Brien

Scholarships and Bursaries, Uncategorized

How did you first hear about the Laidlaw programme?

I first heard about Laidlaw in November 2019 in an email sent out by careers, and for whatever reason, I looked into it and saw that it was pretty cool, and they pay you to do something that’s great for your cv which will make you more money in the future so you’d be silly not to apply. 

How did you decide what research project to do?

You must apply with a research project proposal, so I started thinking “what kind of research project would I like to do over the summer”, and I decided that I wanted to do one by the beach. It’s important to pick a project you enjoy doing, for reasons I will come back to later. I also wanted my application to be successful, so I decided to do my project about an important issue, ensured it was feasible and ensured my findings were a) useful, b) new, and c) could be acted upon. I made my research project about ‘the environmental, economic, and social effects of global warming on our coastal communities. A case study of southern Irish coastal regions’. 

How did you find a supervisor for your project?

I actually forgot about Laidlaw after writing my research project proposal because I thought I had found a professor in the college who would supervise my research project but she stopped replying to my emails, so on Friday, the 24th of January 2020 at 17:40 (3 days before the deadline) I reached out to the amazing Dr Susan Murphy and kind of begged her to accept my request for her to supervise my entire project. I found her by using peoplefinder.tcd.ie, searching for researchers in Departments relevant to my project and finding researchers who have researched topics similar to my research project. Thankfully she said yes, but I had also asked one of my lecturers whose area of expertise was absolutely nothing to do with geography or beaches or climate change as a back-up, and she said yes also, so I actually applied with 2 supervisors, which I think helped me because everybody else only had one. 

How did you write your research project proposal?

This was the tough bit. You must provide a title, which if you’ve seen previous Laidlaw projects you’ll know are generally really complicated, especially the medical research ones. My original title was ‘how will climate change impact coastal Ireland physically, economically, and socially?”, and my supervisor recommended the title I ended up using, which definitely helped.

(An example of the titles of successful research project proposals)

You must provide “a short summary of the research question, objectives, and impact in simple terms which can be understood by a non-expert” in 1000 words or less. I probably gave about 7 hours on this alone, because I believed it to be the most important part of my application. I split my summary into 6 chapters, Aims and Objectives, Methodology, Expected Findings & Impact, Requirements, Timeline, and Sources.

Aims and Objectives: I described the severity of our current climate crisis and how it is too late to prevent global warming so we must adapt to the changes it will bring (so my findings would be a. useful). I outlined the lack of new scientific literature on the likely effects of climate change on the regions I was studying (so my findings would be b. new). I ended it with what specific findings I would produce and what I will do with my findings.

Methodology: A detailed description of how you will produce the findings you’ve named. This takes a fair bit of time, but you have a lot of freedom to decide how and where you want to carry out your research project. You should justify every decision you make with regard to your methodology. For example, I chose to research Ringaskiddy, Kinsale, Castletownbere, and Barleycove because they are all distinct coastal communities which will eliminate any sampling bias.

Expected Findings & Impact: Be honest about your expected findings. The impact part is important, because if your findings don’t have any impact then what was the point of you doing your project? I knew that as part of a climate change act that was recently passed, every city & county council had to produce a climate change adaption plan, which involved ‘identifying areas and assets vulnerable to climate change”. Once I produce my findings I will contact local politicians if I have identified areas and assets vulnerable to climate change in their constituency that is not included in their climate change adaption plan. I didn’t mention this specifically in my research proposal which I am only realising now, but I did mention it in the interview and I believe this gave my research project proposal possibly the strongest and most tangible impact of all the applicants.

No need to write a full paragraph for requirements, timeline, and sources. These chapters made my proposal look more professional. I used 6 sources which were all academic (no news articles or Wikipedia).

Work with your supervisor to improve your proposal and send it to friends and family to make sure it’s understandable.

How was the application process?

There is a personal part of your Laidlaw application, which includes a personal statement and a Leadership in Action Experience Statement. See below what is asked from your personal statement.

Personal Statement: Please provide a personal statement on how you wish to develop as a leader and what difference you want to make through leadership (300 words max.)

Your personal statement requires ego dissolution and strong self-awareness. You must objectively acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses, and have a solid understanding of a) why you’re doing Laidlaw and b) what you hope to get out of Laidlaw. I’m a morally conscience and a somewhat sheltered person who’s incredibly lucky to have had such great parents who have supported me with their time, money, and love to get me to where I am today. I’m in a position where I don’t have to get a job, don’t have to take care of kids or a loved one, and have very few responsibilities that I can’t get out of. This allows me to spend my time on self-development and satisfying the top 2 of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (esteem & self-actualisation), and Laidlaw will help me achieve those things by developing my leadership skills so I can maximize the positive impact I leave on the world. Leadership is an important part of this, so if you don’t really understand leadership you should understand that first. I didn’t realise what leadership really was but when I did learn, I knew I wanted and could become a great leader. If you’re just doing Laidlaw because it would be good for the C.V. you’ll have to be a really good liar and spend a lot of time on this, but really you should use this to reflect on if you’d really enjoy Laidlaw, because if you don’t then (in my opinion) you’re definitely better off spending your time in an area you enjoy working, which is where you will produce your best work. 

The Leadership in Action experience has all the same requirements as the personal statement, but it’s more specific. The personal statement is the ‘why’, and the Leadership in Action experience is the ‘how’. My why was self-esteem and self-actualization, and my how is through building my digital marketing and leadership skills, because that’s where my strengths lie in and it’s what we need right now with all this ‘fake news’.

I actually submitted my thing like 30 minutes late because I had a meeting with my supervisor Susan on the 27th which was a Monday and also the day my research project and cover letter were due to be submitted and I procrastinated making the changes she recommended until like 23:50 that night and I was screaming in my room in Trinity Halls because I had put so much time into making the actual research project proposal and I thought it was all gonna go to waste because of the slow Wi-fi but fortunately it got submitted. I didn’t hear anything about it for ages, other than an email saying I got invited for an interview, which would be with the Laidlaw programme co-ordinator Joel McKeever from the TCD careers office and 2 scientists who are somewhat involved in Laidlaw. I had to make a PowerPoint about myself that I could present to them in 3 minutes and answer their questions about my research project. I was pretty honest in my PowerPoint and put a lot of effort into it. I made a flowchart that showed how I would decide what Leadership in Action experience I would undertake in the Summer and photoshopped myself into a ‘The Interview’ movie poster. In the interview I could tell they hadn’t actually read my research project proposal because the questions they were asking were made up on the spot, so a great way to prepare for this interview is a) make your PowerPoint personable and trustworthy and b) explain your research project proposal to your friends and parents and siblings and answer their questions and if your friends don’t understand it or think it’s stupid, the interviewers probably will too. The Laidlaw programme aims to develop leaders with moral character and the ability to make an impact, so mention how you want to be a leader and use Obama or Nelson Mandela or Gandhi or somebody with really high approval ratings as an example.

How has your disability impacted your Laidlaw experience?

There is a lot of written communication involved in the application process and the programme itself once you get in. I was able to use Grammarly for free thanks to the Disability Service and I had my supervisor proofread my application, but I can’t get someone to read out my emails for me and tell me what information is in them. I missed the first induction event because of this which caused a bit of hassle but nothing serious. There is a lot of self-organisation required in building a successful application which I found challenging, especially during the application as there wasn’t anybody making me do the work or telling me how, and since it was in a domain I was uncomfortable in (writing) I procrastinated, delayed tough decisions and challenging work, and almost didn’t make it into the programme. 

As someone with an atypical mindset, the freedom I was given in choosing my research topic was crucial. Had I been forced to pick a topic I wasn’t interested in or had I picked a topic I thought would give me a fancy complicated research title in hopes of improving my odds of being accepted into the programme and bolstering my CV, I most certainly wouldn’t have made my research project proposal as passionate nor as in-depth as it was. My topic was something I had an esoteric understanding of and feel strongly about, which shined through on my application with the help of my supervisor (and Grammarly).

Sean talks about his journey through access programmes to first year undergraduate

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My name is Seán Maguire and I am currently a student at Trinity College Dublin studying applied Biomedical Science in the field of Human Health and Disease, and I have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I graduated from the University College Dublin through an access programme offered by the university for a level 6 Diploma Continuing Education which involved Science, Engineering, Agriculture and Medicine (SEAM). I never had a proper education beforehand since I dropped out of secondary level school when I was fourteen and had to be homeschooled. This gave me a lack of academic and social skills I could have learned if I stayed in second-level education, however, due to my disability at such a young age I couldn’t handle the number of people and social interaction. When I reached the age of eighteen, I realised that I needed to do something proper with my life and so I embarked and registered on a course with the Open College which is an online college who gives out educational packages for minor QQI certificates.  For my first cert, I was awarded a 94% Distinction in Anatomy and Physiology, and after successfully completing and being awarded that cert I felt some confidence within me that I never felt before in my life.  So after I completed the course I went ahead and registered with Geopace Allied Healthcare since I felt like I would be better suited in the field of the healthcare industry since I liked the idea of helping people. I studied Introduction to Phlebotomy which was a level 3 OCN Certificate and then furthered onto studying Advanced Phlebotomy and Cannulation.  After completing this I felt that since these are adult qualifications and also professional healthcare qualifications, I might just have the confidence to pursue a course in access to science. I never knew there was an access course until my sister showed me and that I did research on my own to know what exactly it was.

Going through everything and looking back at my accomplishments I applied for the access program then I was offered an interview later on which terrified me, but I built up the courage to attend the interview since I didn’t want to back down from my future. The access course was for one year part-time and had three lab sessions: one for Biology, Chemistry and Physics which was a lot of fun to attend.  The entire core of the course involved also Mathematics I & II, study skills, scientific enquiry and work experience which I was lucky enough to have complete in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital. After I finished my access course, I was then offered to attend a graduation ceremony and when I got on stage and shook the hand of the president of the university and received my Diploma, it was a very momentous and proud feeling. I fully felt I could achieve third-level education.

When it came to deciding what course I wanted to choose in third-level education of course I decided I wanted to do Medicine and become a medical practitioner since I had an interest in the idea of being a leading role and strategist in the healthcare field as a professional. I felt as though I might not have been ready for Medicine in the beginning, I felt I should apply for a course in the biomedical field of science which I did but I also came across a course called Human Health and Disease. When I was interviewed for the course it was very intimidating but very worthwhile attending, there were eight doctors interviewing me and the head associate professor. And throughout the interview, they asked me several questions relating to past work experience, education, disability since I started it on my CAO which is very important, and I’d recommend any student to state it on the application.

This was just the beginning of a whole new world of transitioning.

I went to the orientation day just to make sure that I wasn’t lost in anything such as buildings, timetables etc, then we had a great speech by the Senior Tutor. But during my time there I felt really out of place, it seemed like everyone else knew each other from their previous second-level schools and there were a few mature students studying other courses, I was the only mature student in my first year of Applied Biomedical Science from what I found out when I met other students within the class. They were very friendly and nice, and many were international students, so it was interesting to know their backstory. But throughout the time they mainly stuck together in their own group, so I was on my own.

It was kind of difficult to acquire support at times due to my social anxiety and time restrictions of appointments because they would get booked up so quick. So I tried to roll with it without the support and it was the biggest mistake of my academic life. Studying in Trinity was hard at the beginning since I lacked any sort of study skills and plus it was hard for me to listen and understand due to my intellectual disability so I primarily re-read the slides and tried to memorise everything including tutorial sheet answers and questions. I think the most really depressing part of the course is when during labs my lab partner dropped out and I had no one to replace her with and I was left on my own to do both the practical and analytical writing which put so much stress and pressure on me.  and it ended up with me getting low grades.

I only lasted until February that is when I had enough and needed a break. Then I had a mental breakdown towards academic support which they referred me to the senior occupational therapist who then helped guide me through this ordeal where I met with him on several occasions and over the phone.  In the end, I told my therapist that I didn’t want to give up and so I went ahead with the medical repeat where I had my therapist speak on behalf to both the coordinator and head Professor of Human Health and Disease and to my assigned tutor. The main thing is now I feel I have a better chance and advantage over the new first-year since now I know how the university works now and what to prepare for and now since I’ve been coping well with my disability I’m able to enter into libraries without social fear and do side research on their computers but by august, I will have my own preparations I’ll have a new laptop and college equipment.

The main reason I wanted to attend a third level college is not because of some degree or getting a job after, it was to prove to others who have a disability that it is possible to achieve a higher education even for us who are disadvantaged and there is no way I’m giving up on obtaining that since I’m strong and I like a challenge even if obstacles get in the way. I know this year in 2020 I’ll have all the support I need and, in the end, when I reach that goal of graduating, I’m not going to stop I’m going to continue with my education and hopefully end up getting into graduate Medicine.

Invisibles of Trinity -Part III

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Before arriving at Trinity College Dublin as a Computer Science student and even before my diagnosis of bring on the Autistic Spectrum I was already aware of my difficulties in social encounters, especially in group work. In conversation my “radar” is limited in picking up all the subtle messaging that we all give out and I can be too literal in my understanding, leading to confusion. Indeed it is this “literalness” I suspect is why I enjoy coding so much.

Another issue is my own personal shyness and apprehension especially with new people in so that it could be months before I feel even confident to say someone’s name or with group work to make even a basic suggestion. But with group work there are additional issues in my need for stability and certainty. Without it I enter a familiar process from feeling highly stressed to weariness and finally to resignation and withdrawal from participating. How group work can cause this is by the group being leaderless, self-doubting or the task at hand being very unclear. Steps that I have taken to address this include contacting the Course Co-ordinator with my Disability Officer to explain the issues I face and in working with the Disability Service in developing these skills I will need after I leave college into the workplace.

Only in facing our difficulties can we hope to fix them.

The Google Student with Disabilities Scholarship -Daniel Kelly

autism, Scholarships and Bursaries, Uncategorized

Hello, my name is Daniel and last year I finished my Bachelors Degree in Computer Engineering from TCD and this year I will be starting my Masters Degree in Information Security at UCL this September.

The Google SwD Scholarship is a scholarship for 10 university students with a disability who are awarded a lump sum of €7000 towards their tuition and / or educational equipment who –

  • Have achieved excellent academic results
  • Have a passion for Computer Science
  • Have leadership skills
  • Are studying a Computer Science Degree in a European University.

How did you come across the Google Scholarship?
I came across the Google Scholarship by my membership of EmployAbility, an excellent service which assists university students with disabilities in gaining internships, scholarships and employment.

Overall, how did you find the experience of working on the application for the scholarship?
My experience of the application process for the Google Scholarship was that it was extremely efficient. Once I sent in my application they contacted me 3 times, to check I was eligible, to say I had progressed to the final round and then to say I had been awarded the Google Scholarship.

Did you face any challenges during the application process? If so, how did you overcome these challenges?
The greatest challenge I faced with my application for the Google Scholarship was twofold. First, it was the size of the application with it requiring me to submit my Resume, Academic Transcript, two references and my answers to a series of essay questions posed by Google.

Secondly, I wasn’t sure if I met the requirement of achieving excellent academic results due to my previous poor health affecting my results. This was resolved with my tutor who was one of my references clearly explaining the effect my ill health had had on my academic results.

What do you feel you took away from the experience of applying for the scholarship?
The experience I took from in applying and winning the SwD Scholarship was in learning what makes a winning SwD Scholarship application by –

  • Reading the Terms & Conditions, while this may seem boring it actually clearly stated the criteria candidates would be judged by with this allowing me to plan my application around it.
  • Making their job easy by clearly presenting the relevant information in which they judge applications. They will likely be dealing with many applications you want to make their life as simple as possible given they decide who gets the Scholarship.
  • If you require references, use references like mine who knew me very well and could speak confidently about me.
  • Use precise, clear wording, e.g. “I achieved X by doing Y as measured by Z” is what Google advises when writing an application. Also constantly refer to the criteria you are being judged for when giving examples.
  • Not submitting in haste, I spent weeks perfecting my application.

In hindsight, is there anything you feel you would’ve done differently having completed the scholarship?
If I were to apply for the Scholarship again, what I would do differently is that at the very last moment one of my references wasn’t able to provide me with one. This triggered a huge panic in me which is entirely my fault as I had completely forgotten to check if he was still able to be my reference.

However, I was, fortunately, able to find another who was available. From this experience, my advice is to check, double-check and then triple check to see that everything is in order.

Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for students who would be looking to do such a scholarship like the one with Google?
I would definitely encourage every university student with a disability studying Computer Science to apply. It’s free to apply with you potentially winning €7,000.

However, I would only encourage those students who can point to concrete examples that they meet the Scholarship criteria to apply. For example, in demonstrating my leadership skills I was able to talk about my membership of the Trinity Hiking committee and the TCD Disability Ambassador Programme.

As a recent graduate of Trinity, is there anything you would have liked to have seen from such a group as the Trinity Ability Co_op during your time in college (e.g. events throughout the year, blogs, articles, projects, etc.)?
With no disrespect meant towards the TCD Careers Service, I have found their Resume advice not helpful and incorrect. Indeed I actually devoted the 2019 Summer in learning about the different Resume formats, styles and types out there. Why I did this is that I believe both then and now that a well written & laid out Resume & Application is the difference between success and failure with my winning the Google SwD Scholarship I believe direct proof of that. The Ability co_op collaborating with the TCD Careers Service in creating effective resume workshops would be a great project.

The First Year Experience – Ben Rowsome

autism, Uncategorized

At the beginning of First Year, college is a new place with new people, new sounds, new smells, new surroundings, a new way of learning – in short, it’s a new way of living, and it can often be hard for students to adjust. Navigating your way around – everything from your timetable and where your lecture halls are, to where you should go to eat in the afternoon – can take a while to adjust to, and can be very disorientating in the beginning. As a person with autism, it can be particularly disorientating, and I felt it was important to have a plan in place going into the new academic year. 

To help with the First-Year Experience, and make it less stressful for students coming in, I have provided some useful tips under the following three categories:

  1. Freshers’ Week
  2. The First Semester
  3. College Exams

I will also provide perspective on other aspects of college life, such as travel, self-esteem, what to do in the event of change, etc. 

i. Freshers’ Week

This might only be one week in the academic year, but it’s the very first week of the year, and there’s a lot of very important stuff happening. What with the various orientations you have to attend, all the stands for the plethora of societies within the college, and lots of other generic events going on – all of this can be especially hard to navigate, considering that it’s all happening in the one week. But it can also be a very exciting week of the year too, and a lot can certainly be taken away from it.   

If there’s any advice I can give you during this week, it’s that you should definitely plan your Freshers’ Week. What does that mean? Well, let’s take as an example the orientations you’ll have to attend, of which there are guaranteed to be a good few. It will be very helpful to highlight only the orientations that are relevant to you on the timetable that you’ll be provided, and also to find out exactly where and when they’ll be happening before Freshers’ Week begins. This will certainly alleviate a lot of the initial stress first-year students will no doubt be feeling in the run-up to Freshers’ Week, and so that they won’t be scrambling to find out where they’re supposed to be at any given time during the week itself. Say for me who is studying Physics, I had a Physical Sciences orientation, a Mathematics orientation, a General Science orientation and a General 1st year orientation, as well as other bits and bobs here and there, so you can imagine planning one’s Freshers’ Week would serve someone very well here. 

When you get to the society stands at front square, there are a lot of stands (obviously), but also a lot of people and a lot of noise, so there’s never any harm in having a plan here too. You’re going to have fliers thrust into your hand, and students begging you to sign up for whatever society they’re trying to promote. In theory, you can sign up to as many societies as you like, and you’ll always be encouraged by the college to try something new … but if you know deep in your heart that you’re not going to be taking up knitting anytime soon, then pay no heed to that stand when you’re passing it, and keep looking for whatever societies concern your true interests. In my case, I kept a sharp lookout for the Chess Society, in which I would become heavily involved during the First Semester. But again, have a plan here, so that you can use your time amongst the stands productively because they’ll all be gone from front square once the first week of lectures begins. 

It’s worth noting that Freshers’ Week serves another extremely useful purpose – this is an opportunity for first-year students to become as familiar with the college campus as possible before the first week of lectures begins. Use that time.  Find out where all your lecture halls are situated, know some of the routes you can take from one building to another, locate some of the libraries and course offices to may need to avail of throughout the year, suss out some of the good places to eat (I always enjoyed the Buttery as an example), especially those near your lecture halls in the event that you have only a limited amount of time to eat before your next lecture … all these things should be considered, just so one is not too flustered going into the first week. A little bit of anxiety is inevitable of course, but that’s simply because you’re starting a new phase in your own life.

So then, lectures start …

ii. The First Semester

Of course, the first few weeks can be quite difficult. As a student who suffers from a lot of anxiety, I certainly found those first few weeks incredibly challenging. But as I said before, it’s a new way of living, and there will be a lot of stuff still left to encounter throughout the first semester that some may find disorientating or stressful; meeting your lecturers for the first time, handing in assignments, understanding the different ways in which your lecturers approach their respective fields, knowing when each piece of work is due, getting used to Blackboard and other platforms … there’s a lot to take in, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It’s a gradual process, that can be assisted by the plan you create for yourself so that you make the most of your time in college.

The first thing that should be addressed is the fact that everybody is either now living away from home or now have a significant distance to travel from their homes (since most people don’t live smack bang in the middle of town). This can be stressful in and of itself, so it can be very helpful to plan your commute in advance. So, in other words, if you know that the DART gets you to the college in better time than say the bus or the LUAS (or that one mode of transport is simply more accessible than the other), then stick to that, and don’t go making unnecessary stress by trying another unfamiliar commute. This will always stand to people who like routine, like me – half-hour walk down to Bray DART Station, a 40-minute DART journey to Pearse Station, and then at the end of the day, a 90-minute bus journey from Nassau St. to my front door practically. To know that that was my plan every day was simply one less thing to worry about, which did indeed stand to me throughout the 1st semester. 

Once you’re going about your day in college, going from lecture to lecture, you may find that one day you have a lecture at say 9 a.m., and then not have another lecture until 5 p.m. Not knowing what to do during that big gap can also be another cause for stress, so it’s often no harm having a timetable of sorts here too. For instance, I might study in one of the libraries that morning, and then go to the Buttery at 12.30 for lunch, then go down for another session of study before meeting a friend say at 3.30. Of course, this is a particularly large gap, but it’s more to emphasise how useful it can be to plan your whole day, as opposed to just when you have lectures or labs (in the case of a science degree).  

You’re going to learn very quickly that Blackboard is your best friend – this is where most of your lecture notes will be and where some of your assignments will show up for you to complete. It will be a formidable tool for you to use throughout your college years, not just first year, and it’s encouraged that you make good use of it. In the event that you miss a lecture, chances are that this is where your notes will be. If it happens that you forget when a particular assignment is due, or how an assignment is supposed to be submitted, Blackboard is usually a good first place to check. It can also be very useful as a way to communicate with other students and your lecturers, so suffice it to say that Blackboard is an arena for higher learning in itself!

It’s not unusual that a lecture will be moved to a different hall or a different time at the last minute. This can always be disconcerting, especially if it hasn’t been made clear what the new location or time is. And for a person with autism like me, it can be an utter nightmare! But these kinds of situations can always be dealt with – there are always people available to consult in the event of change. You can ask someone within the course, or consult the Science Course Office (say if you’re doing a Science course). I myself found the Disability Services particularly helpful in situations like this, who have their drop-in office in the Arts Building. Of course, if you’re completely confused as to what to do or where to go, the chances are that a lot of other people will be too. And it’s not the end of the world if you miss a lecture as a result of this. There will always be another way to get the notes, whether it be through Blackboard, or through a helpful student. Change might be inevitable, but remember there’s always a way around the situation

Getting used to your lecturers is another big step for any college student, as they’ll all be very different in their approach to their subject, and certainly very different from any of your secondary school teachers. This takes adjusting to just like anything else. So by all means, take the time to understand your lecturer; the way in which they present work, their terminology, what’s he/she expects of you throughout the lecture, what platforms they prefer for notes and assignments (although chances are it’ll be Blackboard), etc. This way, you’ll be able to get the most out of each lecture, and it’ll make it easier to study for exams … which brings us to our last topic. 

iii. College Exams

Exams – the no. 1 stress generator of our time. That’s why it’s especially important to have a plan when it comes to exams. As an academic, this will always stand to you, regardless of what you’re studying, or what stage of your education you’re at. First and foremost, once you’ve gotten your timetable, suss out where each exam is due to take place, when the exam will happen, the duration of the exam, the necessary requirements, etc. Again, only highlight the stuff that’s relevant to you, so that’s it’s not all one big stream of words that are only causing you unnecessary stress leading up to the exams themselves.

Have a study plan!!! Now, this obviously sounds intuitive to any academic, but it should be never underestimated, and there are often potholes that people can fall into when making a study plan – some of which I have even fallen into during my own studies, which is why I feel it’s worth addressing. For instance, when you’re planning a particular day, never bombard a day with studying. Schedule regular breaks and know when you’re going to study a particular topic – which raises another valid point. Perhaps don’t schedule all the easy topics first just for a confidence boost or as a way to convince yourself that you knew everything all along. But this, of course, will depend on the way each person studies and in this respect should only be taken with a pinch of salt.

Make sure all your assignments are complete before the end of the First Semester. As a student in Science, I had a lot of assignments due at this time, and all in various places, including Physics, Mathematics and Geology, so it can certainly somewhat of a labyrinth to track every assignment down and ensure that it’s done. But it’s still a very important task to undertake since it would be an awful shame to have lost some of the marks before going into the exams simply because you had misread the deadline or you forgot about the assignment altogether. So, double-check that you have everything complete before exam time, as this will alleviate a lot of stress during the study week.  As someone who stresses about exams, in any case, I felt empowered knowing I had banked a good few of the marks before-hand.

Believe in yourself. It sounds so simple, but it’s what will stand to you the most throughout your time in college, not just in the first year. There will be days when the work is hard – or the day will have just been tough in itself – and you’ll try and convince yourself that you just can’t do it. But you can. There’s a reason you’re in Trinity, to begin with, and that can’t be taken away from you. 

During the summer of 2019, I had unfortunately suffered quite a tragic bereavement, to the point where a lot of the confidence I had, had been knocked out of me come the new academic year. And I have to be honest when I say that I was tempted many times to throw in the towel at various points throughout the first semester especially … but every time I reminded myself I was a Junior Freshman, studying Physics at Trinity College Dublin no less, something was restored. Something reminding me that this was my place and that I truly deserve to be here, I deserve to embrace everything that’s great about Trinity – the camaraderie, the societies, the events, the sigh of relief you can take after a long night of study in the library … You deserve to be here, and you can battle the first-year experience. 

Ben’s First Year Experience in Conversation with Niamh.