'There is no such thing as wasting points - you should go with your heart, not your results'
My Story: Niamh Healy BA Connect NUI GALWAY
Niamh Healy has no time for the notion that a school-leaver is "wasting" points by opting for a college course where the CAO points cut-off is much lower than what they achieved in the Leaving Certificate.
"I would have been quite a good student and people would look at me and say 'why is she doing arts?'", said Niamh of Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
With 555 CAO points, Niamh, a former pupil of Presentation Secondary School, Clonmel had her choice of entry routes to third-level, and, indeed, accepted a place on a high-points psychology degree programme.
"I probably knew on the second day that it wasn't for me; it was a bit scary," recalls Niamh.
She left at the end of October and returned home to work, successfully re-applying to the CAO the following year, this time for NUI Galway's four-year, BA CONNECT programme, where students do two subjects as well as a specialism, in her case creative writing.
"I had always been good at English and Irish and I thought creative writing made it an interesting way to do arts. But, just when I thought I had found my niche, it became clear that a structured writing programme wasn't a fit; I loved arts, but I didn't like creative writing."
Luckily for Niamh, the programme is very flexible and so, in second year, she moved to the more general, BA - Irish and English.
"Weirdly enough, my love for Irish sent me to Sweden, I went on an exchange to the Celtic studies department in Uppsala University in third year, where I studied Welsh."
After graduating this summer, Niamh did a certificate in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) and "is excited to start new adventures abroad". Among the career path ideas she is considering is applying for a traineeship in the EU.
Niamh's advice to students is "to think about what you really want, not what others want for you.
"Secondly, go with your heart - not your results. Because no matter what you study, if you have a passion for the subject, you will excel.
"And, be honest with yourself about your talents and qualities, and what you want in life. It is really silly to do something you don't love just because the points are high," she says.