The July 1st deadline to change CAO course choices is approaching and offers the opportunity to re-examine the options available to students for the years ahead. Now is the time to really identify the courses of interest & do some research on courses and colleges available, the outcome of poor choices can mean courses are dropped out of in the first year or never completed. This has an effect on any future studies where grants and fees are involved and can leave the student short on options in the years ahead.
Course choices will benefit from planning and research. Like all journeys with an ultimate goal, preparation is vital. Most students at this stage are aware of their options regarding courses depending on examination results but it can be useful to revisit the CAO website that has information on all courses available with a useful search facility that enables the user to refine their choices based on specific criteria. Study and course content needs to excite and motivate the student especially when they are not under direct supervision.
Self-motivation is essential to college life and if the wrong course is being followed, walking away from it all or spending more time in the student bar than lectures can be the outcome. It is best not to project too far ahead to what a career path may hold, it is far more important to study subjects that encourages the student to keep going back for more based on their own specific interests.
Between study sessions and Leaving Cert completion, the student should ask themselves some soul searching questions. They should ask themselves what motivates them. Are they fascinated by science? Mesmerised by the arts? Inspired by technology? Whichever questions are answered should lead into the right course being chosen.
Naturally CAO points are major part of the consideration but sometimes it is possible to pursue the course of choice at colleges where there are lower points required, so it is worth looking at all options outside of the preferred ones.
Even if there is confidence in the choices that have been made, it is wise to review them before a final decision, as new courses can be added and old ones discontinued. There are many more courses available to explore since the CAO handbook was printed.
The wrong course choice can be costly. Dropout rates are high for those studying unsuitable courses and the financial impact can be far reaching. If a student drops out or fails exams in the first year and it is decided to start a new course the following academic year, it will cost another registration fee and another course fee, each costing thousands of euro. That is a large price to pay for not spending some extra time making the right choices.
Once suitable courses are selected, they must be validated against whether the student fulfils the entry requirements, is studying the right subjects and of course the necessary CAO points will need to be achieved. Visit prospective colleges and take advantage of open days. There are always career guidance counsellors on hand to talk to. It is helpful to discuss options with respected adults and friends or professionals.
Secondary to choosing a course is choosing a college. When choosing a college, some factors to consider might include the following;
- College location. Is there a higher cost of study at the chosen college in comparison to other colleges offering the same third level course? – e.g living expenses are higher in the capital than in rural areas.
- Is student accommodation easily obtainable? e.g is there on-campus accommodation available to first year students, is it possible to commute to a college if reasonably affordable accommodation cannot be found?
- What are the academic achievements of the college? e.g is the college regarded as having a well regarded department in your chosen field of study? (This can be part of a future employers selection criteria for new hires).
- Does the college offer job placement programmes to help students obtain a job after graduation?
- Are there good sporting and social events on campus? This is important for new students adjusting to college life and making new friends as they may be selecting a different college to other friends from secondary school.
When all necessary research has been done and a short list is made, list the final choices on the CAO record in order of preference. The video tutorial below from the CAO (www.cao.ie) will assist in this process.
The change of mind period is one that is of the utmost benefit for students and if used wisely, will allow college to get off to a great start with a student brimming with confidence, assured that the course they have chosen will lead to an interesting and challenging time ahead.