Final Year Economics and Politics Student Tara O’Neill explains what it is like to apply to UCD having done A-Levels and why she decided to move from Northern Ireland for college. 

In 7th year I had been studying Economics for 4 years and Politics for 2 and so I was pretty sure I wanted a college course which would allow me to study both. CAO was not talked about in school very much but the UCD prospectus was on hand to give me ideas. Two big draws UCD had was its proximity to Dublin City and the opportunity to go on Erasmus, a programme which allows you to study in a European country for a semester or a year. With A Levels, it can often be confusing when you have to convert your grades to CAO points however the UCD Incoming Students website had a tool which converts A Level grades to points.

My A Levels went my way and off to the Dublin I went, on my own. Before I arrived at college the word ‘Arts’ brought drama, fine art and music subjects to my mind. However walking into Theatre L in Newman (which is home to UCD’s Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences subjects) I quickly realised Arts students did not use a paintbrush. The DN500 course (which is what I applied to) allowed me to enter UCD on my chosen stream studying Economics and Politics and then chose a third  subject to study in first year. This has changed slightly now however with the restructuring of UCD’s Arts & Humanities degree and the Social Sciences degree.  In 2018 if I was applying to Economics and Politics I would be applying to the Social Sciences course and CAO code DN700.

UCD is the biggest university on the island and it really felt like that, at first. I lived in 0n-campus accommodation in first year where I met fantastic people, had great craic and took advantage of the ‘rolling out of bed at 8:45’ distance to the Newman building. Towards the end of  my first year is when I decided to build my CV through getting involved in societies in UCD. I was elected Speakers Officer for the UCD Economics Society where I had to organise the speakers which were going to come to speak to our members. This was where I met my friends for life. We, the committee of 2015/16, had a ball! We had a great year full of speakers, events and the opportunity to get to know each other inside out and become best friends. The societies community was very close and we got to know other committees, went to their events and nights out, even collaborating with one or two.

In Third year I took part in the Erasmus Exchange Program and went to Stockholm Universitet to study Politics. Each department in UCD  has  partner universities in many countries to visit for the year; it is very well connected and respected among European universities. It developed my core life skills and gave me independence with a guaranteed fall back of both universities who were extremely helpful and supportive throughout the year. While in Stockholm, I was part of a truly international community, living in a similar campus accommodation to UCD. Being surrounded by so many different cultures, languages and personalities made the experience so special, even when it was minus 15+ outside! Politics was a popular subject to study through English and so this is where I met most of my Swedish friends. I was also fortunate enough to be near to a GAA club in Stockholm where I had another source of support while away from home for the first time.

When I returned to UCD for Final Year was when I really started to appreciate the benefit of UCD’s facilities. The library was of course my second home but the on campus gym, the lakes and greenery were vital during my breaks from study. The James Joyce library is open, bright and quiet, very conducive to productive study. James Joyce has every book you could ever need for all Arts subjects. The Student Union shop is close enough to the library to get quick caffeine boosts and take a break with friends. James Joyce can get very busy so I would often take advantage of other library spaces such as the Health Science Library or Blackrock Library which was near to where I live. The gym and pool are state of the art and are the envy of other college students in Dublin. We have free access to the gym all year round and this was a key part of me and my friends’ success, getting the blood pumping to relieve the stresses of Final Year.

As a northern student, I was constantly looking out for the accent to identify other northern students. As the years went on, there were more and more northern accents, representative of the increase in those who braved crossing the border! It made me so happy to hear these accents and know that more people chose to have the experience I had in UCD. I had the best of both worlds, my friends from home were mostly in Belfast and I stayed in contact with them, but I had an altogether different experience in Dublin, a city I was a stranger to bar the airport. Now after 4 years, Dublin and UCD will always have a place in me as the place that made me independent, driven and successful.

If you are applying to UCD through A Levels visit the MyUCD website here for more information on applying.