ONE OF the most difficult decisions facing Leaving Certificate students is what career or life-path they are going to choose.
Although there are a myriad of choices outside of the traditional college route, this week we are going to focus on steps to choosing a third level course. It is very difficult to decide on a specific vocation at such a young age. People change careers and jobs many times over a lifetime, so it is often easier to begin by thinking, where am I going to start? What domain or foundation area will give me the best opportunity from which to grow and expand? It may well be, that the end qualification is the field in which you wish to qualify, i.e. nursing or primary teaching, but many areas such as arts or science may serve as a springboard from which you will take off. A final year student could have a very different idea about what they want to do than the person who entered college in first year.
The following steps may help before making the final decision.
Step 1: Your interests
Identify your strengths and weakness. What area of occupation are you interested in? Guidance Counsellors in schools will be able to provide you with information about new courses coming on stream annually and latest developments in the labour market. Don’t worry about your skillset at this point, skills can be developed and taught as we mature. Ponder instead on your natural aptitudes, the type of person you are and want to be.
Step 2 Subjects
Identify your best subject areas. Talk to your teachers about these. Consider your examination results in the various areas over the years. Get informed of all the subjects in your chosen course, not just the more obvious ones. It is often the maths component or a language area that can cause students to drop out.
Step 3 Matriculation
Make sure you have the necessary entry requirements. Points are only one aspect. Some courses may require a third language, a particular grade in an entry subject, a portfolio or an aptitude test.
Step 4: Finance
Discuss finances before investigating different colleges and universities. Approximately forty percent of students were entitled to a grant last year. For those who weren’t, the maximum rate of the student contribution was €3,000. For queries relating to college finance, go to www.susi.ie
Step 5: Know the system
Understand how the Central Application System (CAO) works. It is the mechanism responsible for undergraduate application and opens this year on November 6th
Step 6: Back door options
If you feel you may not achieve the necessary points to get into your chosen field, investigate other undergraduate pathways that can potentially lead you where you want to go.
Step 7: Do your research
It is your choice, and ultimately your decision so take responsibility:
· Talk to your parents; they are often aware of a child’s natural talents beyond the classroom and can incite a thought process by giving their opinion or making a suggestion
· Book an appointment with your Guidance Counsellor
· Prospectuses and college websites
· Your work experience: Transition Year can be a great opportunity to gain valuable insight into the working world
· Open Days at colleges will give you the opportunity to tour the campus, see the lecture halls, meet the lecturers, and ask questions directly.
Next Tuesday October 24th, ‘Options West,’ Galway’s annual careers exhibition will take place in the Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill. Colleges from all over Ireland, the UK and Holland will be represented. Other exhibitors will include post leaving cert colleges (PLC’s), Gardai, Defence Forces, and Apprenticeships.
And remember, Keep an open mind; sometimes it is a chance encounter, a negative experience, or a life whisper that can set us on the right path.
In the coming weeks, this column will be aimed at those currently studying for their Leaving Cert and their parents.