With 7 universities, 14 Institutes of Technology, 5 Colleges of Education and various Independent Colleges to choose from; the CAO list of colleges can be overwhelming when you are trying to make a decision. Let’s have a look at some things to remember when you are making your decision that will help make the process of choosing that bit easier.
It may sound basic, but the first thing to keep in mind when you are choosing a college is what it is that you actually want to study. Don’t pick a college just because your friends are going; think of the subject that you want to study and the job you would like to have in the future and try to pick a college that offers the best course in that area. There are plenty of colleges that are best for particular fields of study such as IADT in Dublin for art and design, the Colleges of Education such as St. Patrick’s for teaching, Institutes of Technology for business, engineering, science.
Research has shown that those students who did their homework when choosing a college were less likely to drop out in first year, so browse the college websites and go to the various college open days that will be on during the year. Check out the college facilities such as the library and sports facilities as well as what clubs and societies are available to join.
Take into account the location of the college and the cost of living involved in studying there; will you be able to live at home or will you have to move out? Will you be able to live on campus or will you be looking for accommodation nearby? A college in a big city or near a tourist destination will be mean more expensive accommodation so make sure to go through your budget first and be clear on what you can afford or see if you are entitled to a student grant.
Students can often fall into the trap of picking a course based on its title while failing to look in detail at the course content, only to find that when they start, the course is not suited to them. Find out the answers to practical questions about the course. What are the hours involved? Will there be Erasmus or work placement involved? Is there a tutor/mentor system in place? It can be a good idea to contact a past student or a course co-ordinator to ask any questions you may have.
Think of your future job and look at the links various colleges have with businesses and industries that are relevant to your chosen course and career. DCU has a INTRA Internship Programme where students gain paid, relative work experience as part of their degree courses. A 2011 survey showed that 90% of students who graduated with a degree in DCU the previous year were in employment or further study; a higher rate than the national average. Tralee IT has close links with businesses in the Shannon Developments Kerry Technology Park as well as hosting research centres for global companies.
Trinity College Dublin currently ranks as the top university in Ireland, followed by University College Dublin in second place and University College Cork in third. CAO rates DCU, Dundalk IT, NUIG and Tralee IT as being colleges that stand out in terms of location, research and campus commitment to the well-being of students.
However, regardless of where a college is ranked in any list, at the end of the day the best college for you will be the one that ticks most of your boxes with regard to everything that you are looking for from your college experience. So why not get researching and improve your chances of college success with a well educated decision!