Students need help to choose the right path for the future
'Making choices' is how one would describe the activities of most school leavers and other groups of college applicants during the past month. The question arises: Do all applicants or school leavers have the facility to make equally good choices?
A relevant study has just been published by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), entitled: Hidden Disadvantage? A Study on the Low Participation in Higher Education of the Non-Manual Group.
In the recent period where there has been a significant growth in participation rates in higher education overall, there has been a decline in the participation rates of the children of the non-manual workers group.
The study states that: "There is clearly a need for better information to guide young people in their decisions; clearer route maps and better signposting.
"These young people also need better information and advice about graduate employment and the kinds of financial returns that can be expected from different education and career routes, as well as targeted information to inform the decisions of particular groups of students."
Students surveyed in the study indicated that their parents did not necessarily have experience of higher education, nor were their siblings and peers necessarily familiar with the higher education process and choices therein.
Hence, they were far more reliant on the supports and encouragement available from their school.
Guidance counsellors have a particularly important task in providing information and evaluating options for those students whose home background is not likely to provide them with such support.
Their guidance counsellors must help them to make the best choices, and to aim high.
Q My son had to provide information about his social and economic background on his CAO application. What relevance has this to his application?
A The Central Applications Office (CAO) is asking all students to provide information on their social, economic and cultural background as part of their college application this year. Although they are not mandatory, all students are encouraged to respond to the questions.
The purpose of gathering the information is to measure equality of access to higher education and to help the HEA identify resource and other needs required to attract students of all backgrounds to higher education and to support them while in college.
Socio-economic disadvantage remains the major barrier to third-level participation, says Tom Boland, the chief executive of the HEA.
'Equal access' information has been collected since 2007 in all publicly-funded higher-education colleges in Ireland. The data that has been gathered already is providing the HEA with a rich source of information on participation in college.
This helps to streamline and further develop services and supports for existing students and for those thinking about entering higher education.
Applicants are asked to give simple 'yes' or 'no' answers to questions on disability, socio-economic circumstances, cultural and ethnic background.
The data collected on each student's background is confidential. The HEA assures applicants that the information will not affect the CAO application process or eligibility for financial assistance schemes.
Open days today: Sallynoggin College of Education, Sallynoggin, Co Dublin, hosts an open day from 10am to 2pm. The college offers over 20 courses in such areas as Creative Studies, Fashion Design Performing Arts, Dance, and many more. Colaiste Dhulaigh, Coolock, Dublin 15, is hosting an information evening from 6.30pm to 9.30pm. Colaiste Dhulaigh is one of the best known colleges in the City of Dublin VEC, and offers a very wide range of courses in business, art and design, architecture, fashion design, media including film and journalism, leisure, tourism and social studies. Finally, HEAR/DARE Applicant Information sessions will be held in UCC, and in the Clarion Hotel, Sligo, this evening starting at 7pm.