Cracking the College Code

Making the most of the first year college experience

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About the Book

Published by C J Fallon Ltd and available online and in all good bookshops - “Cracking the College Code is the indispensable companion for all parents, guardians and students embarking on the journey into third level. This book should be in every leaving cert student's bag as they depart on this exciting but often daunting new destination on their career path.” Betty McLaughlin, President, Institute of Guidance Counsellors.

This practical guide was written as a direct response to the growing number of students dropping out of college which is distressing for students and their families. It also responds to many requests from students and parents seeking guidance on the various aspects of going to college and college life. It offers insights and tips to making a smooth transition between two very different education systems addressing the following and more:

  • Making informed course and college choices
  • Preparing for change
  • Getting to know how the third level system works
  • What makes students successful in college
  • Why some students withdraw from college
  • What students face in the first weeks and months at college
  • How to have fun safely
  • Where and when to look for help
  • Study and part-time work – getting the balance right
  • Living at home or away
  • Parents’ and students’ expectations – are they mismatched?


Catherine pictured at the book launch with the President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, Betty McLaughlin, and the Provost of Trinity College, Dr Patrick Prendergast.

This book will be useful to the growing number of students thinking about going to college and for those who may be in the middle of the first year college experience. The information contained within does not relate to any one course or college in particular but can be taken as a general guide of what to expect on almost every course at third level. It applies to all levels whether degree, diploma or certificate.

It highlights the significant differences between two distinct levels within the education system as students prepare to make a move from a system of dependence on teachers, parents and school to a system of independent learning. In a gentle way, it gives a quiet confidence to parents to let go and to students to take control, having identified and maybe even discussed some of the challenges of going to college together.

What the Minister for Education and Skills says:

"I am very aware that moving from school to college is a difficult transition for many students. This book makes a very practical contribution in setting our young people on the pathway to success, armed with a very clear picture of the expectations and demands they will face in third level. It will help students get up to speed quickly as they move from one level to another and take increasing control of their education and their lives."

What the Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr Patrick Prendergast says:

"Education is how you can transform your fate. It's a truism to say that the few years you spend in university can be the most transformative and game-changing of your life. It was so for me; it is so for generations of students. It's important to hit the ground running. To enable this, Catherine O'Connor has written this immensely useful and practical guide. I congratulate Catherine. This book is one step further towards students actively creating, rather than passively witnessing, the fate of themselves."  Click HERE to read the Provost's address

What a parent says:

"A brilliant book and what every student, parent/guardian needs to read on entry to third level education. Informative, realistic and comprehensive. This book kept me interested every step of the way. Superbly written and something I will refer to time and time again."
Nora Irwin: Parent and former Director, National Parents Council Post Primary and Executive Committee Member COMPASS (Co-operation of Minority Religion & Protestant Parents Association)

What a college graduate says:

"I wish this book was around when I was starting out. It opens prospective students' minds to everything you don't think of about third level. A must- read for anyone thinking about going to college."
Jenny Stokes

What a lecturer says:

"Cracking the College Code has a wealth of information for both aspiring and current third level students and their parents alike. It is very accessible, well researched and comprehensive. It gives a valuable insight into how the college system really works - a wonderful resource."
Dr Veronica O’Dwyer: Lecturer of Optometry, Dublin Institute of Technology

What a Guidance Counsellor says:

"...the 'must have' essential guide for all students, parents and guardians embarking on a journey into third level...full of valuable insights and practical advice for making a successful transition.  Highly recommended."

Betty McLaughlin, Guidance Counsellor and President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors  

Read more about the Book Launch

Contact Catherine at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 086 6017036 

Information talks are available nationwide for parent groups in the evenings throughout the year and for Leaving Cert student groups during the school day.

Individual consultations are also available for senior cycle students. During these consultations Catherine works with students motivating them towards their career paths, giving them tools and techniques to get through the Leaving Cert year and prepare for what lies ahead at college. She also works with college students who are having difficulty settling into college life.

Parents' Associations and Schools: Multiple copies of the book can be purchased at a discounted price  from CJ Fallon - Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 01 6166490 and the National Parents Council Post Primary.