I entered UCC as a mature student of 27. I had left education in Transition Year due to difficulties around my health and mental health, and sensory problems. When I was ready for higher education I attempted the MSAP exam to compete for a place without a conventional CAO path to 3rd level education and won a place in the School of Arts.
My path may be atypical for many younger autistic people entering college for the first time, but I can still recommend some universals.
If I can last two years in this environment, and start a third, you can too!
- Engage with the Disability Support Service as soon as possible, preferably before beginning your course in the summer.
- Familiarise yourself with your environment before the onslaught of Rag Week.
- Try to examine the Societies for social opportunities that suit your strengths and temperaments.
- Learn the layouts of the main building of your chosen department while you are unobstructed by crowds or other excessive stimulations.
- The new Sensory space (An Ceantar Ciúin AKA The Calm Zone) should help for the sensitive, and there are always stairwells and outlying seminar rooms lying empty if you need a short escape to collect yourself.
- For those with sensory or executive function problems, or even those left for the first time to chart your own course as new adults, I would advise you to keep track of your obligations through the immediate and visceral chaos, and keep in contact with your disability advisor and lecturers. Don’t let things fester. The mental health counsellors are there to help you before breaking point, not just to pick up the pieces afterwards.