Making the transition from second-level to third-level education can be challenging for many first-year students. Much of what Trinity’s incoming students experience in the process of making this significant adjustment to their new life does little to dispel their apprehension.
The first contact that a Trinity first year has with their new college is with its faceless bureaucracy. The continued failings of Trinity’s administrative systems are infamous among students, who have become frustrated with delayed responses and inefficient or inadequate online systems.
The absence of one central and comprehensive source of information for first years is a major concern which causes students to rely on inaccurate information and hearsay from online forums. The archaic “my.tcd” website is much maligned for its malfunctioning and sluggish operation. The staggered and delayed registration of first-year students is not communicated efficiently, which leads to further anxiety for unsettled students, particularly those who remain unregistered as term time approaches. The payment of fees is a particularly frustrating system to navigate, with conflicting due dates for payment likely to cause unnecessary concern for already anxious students.
For students who enroll in Trinity following second-round CAO offers, the process is further complicated. A number of these students are unable to register or obtain student cards many weeks after the beginning of term. This is an unnecessary and substantial inconvenience for these students at a vital and turbulent time in their lives.
Further frustration for incoming students arises when timetables are not issued until a matter of days before Freshers’ Week. For students attempting to grapple with the well-documented accommodation crisis, this delay is incredibly inconvenient as it leaves little or no time for confirming conditions with landlords or for finalising their own plans for the year ahead. A welcome development came this summer when students were issued with “pre-assigned” student IDs in an attempt to alleviate this avoidable stress. This can be seen as a positive example of Trinity finding solutions to these problems, but for other Irish universities it is simply an non-issue. Similarly, the recent introduction of a digital ID card and the relatively early distribution of timetables this year point to gradual and welcome improvements in these systems.
Last year, the absence of the annual Freshers’ Week mailout of society publications was roundly criticised for the negative impact it had upon societies’ memberships. While a similar soft copy is now emailed out to first years, it is a weak substitute for the previously extensive publication and that was hindered by problems with circulation and data protection. For many incoming students, the first interaction that they will have with college life will be the overwhelming chaos of Front Square in Freshers’ week. The absence of a clear and effective channel of communication and information delivered to first-years does little to alleviate the understandable fears that they may have.
With the HEA reporting almost one in ten students dropping out before the end of their first year, Trinity has a duty to provide welcoming and intuitive services for its students. Failings in administration are basic and may be overlooked. But for anxious first years who crave certainty of information, competent administration is especially important. Trinity’s administrative systems should always strive to be approachable, considerate and student-friendly.