'My first course choice didn't work out as planned, but I'm happy now'
My Story: Cathal Breathnach, Engineering, NUIG
Cathal Breathnach's advice to prospective third-year students is to go with their best instinct as to what they would like to do and to really think down the line if they can.
The 19-year-old started science in NUI Galway in 2013 but quickly knew it was the wrong course for him. Earlier in his Leaving Certificate year, and after a period of some uncertainty about his preferred college choice, he had changed his original CAO first preference of engineering. "It is very hard for anyone to decide at that stage," says Cathal.
Having started college, once the realisation dawned that he was not on the right road, Cathal, a former pupil of St Joseph's Secondary School in Galway city, also known as The Bish, gave some careful thought to his next step.
With some prompting from his mother, he reconsidered his original choice and reapplied to the CAO the following year for the Bachelor of Engineering, also at NUI Galway, while also finishing out first year science.
"There are certain comparisons one can make between a science and engineering degree but the increased practicality and clearer focus of engineering appealed to me," says Cathal, who always loved making things as a child.
Cathal entered the undenominated engineering programme, which means it is a general first year, allowing students the opportunity to explore the different areas of engineering and some time to think about the discipline in which they want to specialise.
He had been torn between mechanical and electronic, but as the year went on his mind cleared and next month, as he enters second year, he will go into the electronic and computer engineering stream.
"I am definitely much happier now; I am clear where I am going, and I am certainly much happier having realised this sooner rather than later."
Cathal hasn't worked out his future yet: Originally, he thought about pursuing a career in academia, but now he knows he prefers "the more practical side of things".
His advice for school-leavers is to go with their best instinct as to what they would like to do and to really think down the line if they can.
"If something goes wrong, it's most definitely not the end of the world - there will always be a chance to get out there and do what you really want to do."