Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Planning and research is the key to choosing right course

Deciding what you want to do for the rest of your life is an extremely daunting task for any 17-year-old.

However the Leaving Certificate students of 2013 can make the decision easier by thoroughly researching all the options available to them.

To help in this decision-making process, I spoke to Diarmuid Haughian, who has a masters degree in career guidance and is the founder and managing director of

How can a student decide on a course that he/she will enjoy and be successful in?

The key to deciding on the most appropriate course of study is to research the contents of the course versus your interests and aptitudes and reflect on the choices available.

Self-reflection is probably the most significant facet of the decision process.

This should include reflecting on the course content, the course delivery (eg lecture-based versus practical work), the culture of the learning environment and the prospect of living far from home.

Think about what you find out in your research and have conversations with lecturers at open days.

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Think about your future job functions, job prospects and potential employers, etc.

Arrange an appointment with a qualified, impartial and qualified career guidance practitioner who will challenge you to reflect and set out a career action plan and help select the most appropriate course.

How does a student choose an agriculture course that will suit them?

If you are set on a career in agriculture, most courses include modules such as business and science subjects – so beware of this reality, and research the course content.

Do you like business and science subjects, do you like the outdoors, animals, food, etc?

Psychometric tests can be a useful tool to help decide if a career in agriculture is for you and help reduce the probability that the student may select the wrong course of study.

These science and business modules open up various avenues such as agri-consultancy, retail or sales representatives or farm management – so consider and visualise the long -term prospects on graduation.

How should a student rank his/her preference for different courses?

You must consider the costs associated with your study. For some students, living at home while you complete your course may be the only option available to you in order to afford a third level education.

Location and the cost of living must be factored into any decision and the finances available to the student from their family and broader support network.

It is also important to use the change-of-mind option in May against your forecasted points. A month or so before you sit the Leaving Cert, you should be in a more informed position to predict your points total. Always have a failsafe option just in case things don't go exactly to plan, hence researching the points from previous years is highly advised. You could also use the the option of the British UCAS system as a backup.

Considerations such as points, location, course content, future career direction, employment prospects, duration of course, course-provider reputation, cost of living must be taken into account. The ranking of these factors is a personal choice for each student.

Any other advice for 2013 Leaving Certificate students?

Speak to your support network, include your family in the decision process and be open about your career thoughts. Don't be afraid to use the services of a career guidance practitioner and feel positive and assured about your decision. Keep your options open, use the change-of-mind option and research, reflect and plan for different scenarios.

Many students who drop out of a third level course are unfortunately unprepared for an independent student lifestyle. Some find it difficult to adapt to the new educational culture, the personal responsibility and the course itself.

If you do find yourself in a course that you are not quite suited to, speak to a guidance practitioner within the college or at as soon as you realise the course is not for you – there are always options available.

Diarmuid Haughian can be contacted on

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