Making the transition from second-level education to further or third-level courses is a daunting task for most school leavers. Faced with an almost dizzying array of choices in the CAO colleges alone, many applicants have great difficulty in even knowing where to start.
There are plenty of sources of information available to college applicants nowadays. Information technology, computers, the internet, have transformed access to information. But information comes fast and furious, so there is a lot to keep up with.
As prospective applicants start to consider their college options next year, they will be pleased to know that the CAO online application fees for 2013 have been reduced from €30 to €25, (or from €60 to €50 for late online applicants).
This year, the Central Applications Office (CAO) handled 76,716 applications centrally for 43 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Ireland. Online activity accounted for over 98pc of applications. So a reduction in the online application fee benefits the vast majority.
Meanwhile, in the context of any discussion about college costs, people will recall that tuition fees in universities in England were increased from September this year, from £3,290 (€4,118) per annum up to £6,000 (€7,511) or in some cases, £9,000 (€11,266) per year, and it was expected that this might affect the number of Irish applicants accepting places in English universities this autumn.
It's interesting to note that by mid September, UCAS reported that 1,957 applicants from the Republic of Ireland were accepted into universities and colleges in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
This compares to 2,390 at the same stage last year, a drop of around 20pc. So the increase in fees may have contributed to that drop.
The top subjects for Irish applicants are medicine and subjects related to medicine. Those courses have an early application deadline of 15 October each year, so UCAS advises that many people will want to start work on their applications right away.
Meanwhile, the cycle of college open days for prospective applicants gets into swing as the autumn term advances, with a particular emphasis this week on agricultural and horticulture colleges.
Today, there is an open day in the College of Amenity Horticulture, National Botanic Gardens, Dublin 11 from 2pm-4pm. Tomorrow, there is an open day in Gurteen Agricultural College, Roscrea, Co Tipperary from 10.30am-2pm On Friday, there are open days in both Ballyhaise College, Co Cavan, and Kildalton College, Co Kilkenny; and on Tuesday October 9, Mountbellew Agricultural College, Co Galway One of the bigger events in the open day calendar takes place this coming weekend, when NUI Galway host two open days, Friday, from 9am-3pm, and Saturday from 10am-3pm. Saturday is European Job Day (EJD). The event takes place in Brussels and is an opportunity for jobseekers and employers from across Europe to meet and make contact. This year's event is also taking place online, so people may register and participate wherever they are in Europe. There will be a particular focus on jobs in the green economy, healthcare, and ICT sectors, which are perceived key areas of growth potential. On Monday next NUI Galway hosts a Graduate Jobs Fair from 12.30pm-4pm in the Bailey Allen Hall, which will feature major organisations from business and industry. Meanwhile, next week, October 7 -13, is ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) Awareness Week, with a number of events planned for parents or carers of children with the disorder, as well as for adults with ADHD. See www.hadd.ie details