The Challenge of Career and College Choices – Part 3 of 4

careercollegeStaying the Course

When students are unsure what course they would like to study – they’re often advised to just do their absolute best in every subject, then maximise their points and you’ll be able to get anything you want. However it doesn’t always work like this. It can be hard to motivate yourself if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. Also this may put you under huge additional unnecessary pressure, which some people thrive on but others find very stressful.

At this stage narrowing down and writing out the main areas of interest and looking at courses in the various institutions is useful, to know what’s out there. Often if you don’t have all the subject entry requirements or perhaps weren’t to get enough points for your first choice (e.g. a Level 8 degree), it may be possible to choose a lower level course in the same subject area or college, and to transfer to the degree at a later stage if that’s what you still want at that point.

Thinking about the particular learning approach is vital, as programmes even in the same subject area can be structured in different ways that don’t suit everyone. For instance a friend’s son who was interested in psychology preferred not to learn in a highly academic way, so opted for Applied Psychology, instead of the more academic type of degree at another university.

It also may be the case that third-level education is not the best option for you, but a more vocational or practical course of further study or apprenticeship could be your thing so you want to be sure that you’re choosing the right path for you

I found it particularly helpful to get the printed prospectus for each of the main colleges, and take time to look through it carefully – we found course options that we previously had not noticed online, one of which my son ended up studying and is very happy in.

Questions to ask here are:

  • Is my preferred learning style highly academic or more practical
  • What different courses and different levels are there – e.g. Animal Science vs Degree in Veterinary Medicine vs Degree in Veterinary Nursing – if you’re interested in working with animals, then it might be easier to gain entry to the latter course as the points entry requirement is currently lower.
  • Are there transfer options to start in one programme and transition to another?


Many similar courses are offered in different universities, both in Ireland, UK including Northern Ireland, Europe and elsewhere.

Factors to take into account here are:

  • How well will the student settle into life at this institution – if it’s a big place will they feel lost, perhaps a small university will feel too small.
  • What is the college reputation with employers – often this is not a major factor – more likely the individual person, and their achievements and how they progressed will be important for recruitment.
  • Cost of living e.g. whether living at home or not and whether grant funding is available – which may be the case for studying outside Ireland.
  • College amenities e.g. sports facilities, study, library etc
  • Extra curricular activities and
  • Student services e.g. counselling, guidance etc

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