This week is the first ever College Awareness Week. College Awareness Week is an initiative which encourages all students to consider third level education as a real and viable option for them.
It has a number of goals and events are planned throughout the week at both local and national level.
Events are aimed at encouraging students of all ages and background to see the importance of going to college, and many of the events planned nationally focus on giving students the opportunity to meet local role models who have attended third level education in the past.
Events also aim to assist students to become 'college ready' by developing skills to meet potential challenges.
The week is run in partnership with the Higher Education Authority (HEA), the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), the Confederation of Student Services Ireland (CSSI) and the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC).
One innovative programme, launched to coincide with College Awareness Week, is College for Every Student (CFES), adapted from a model developed by a US educational non-profit organisation of the same name. CFES has had a partnership with the Trinity College Dublin Access Programme, known as TAP, since 2011, but this year sees a considerable ramping up of the programme.
The programme is pairing students from 11 designated disadvantaged schools - schools with lower than average college going rates - with volunteer mentors. The 320 mentors are drawn from the TAP alumni and supporters network and their role is to support students in reaching their goals of attending third level.
Nearly 1,200 students are gaining access to the volunteer mentors. The programme has been piloted in St Joseph's Secondary School, Rush, Co Dublin and research has found that engagement in the programme results in a 95pc uptake in third level education by the students involved.
The Trinity CFES programme is only one example, Schools and guidance counsellors all over the country will be running events many of which are aimed at junior students. This allows students to become involved in the career decision making process as early as possible. Events include careers fairs, tours of companies and colleges, CAO information sessions, a day in the life sessions, exhibitions, quizzes and workshops.
If families or students are interested in College Awareness Week, it is possible to get involved outside of school events. Many events have been organised by local libraries and institutes of technology and can be attended by any interested person. Some are even directed at very young children such as Santa's Grotto At Limerick IT. A full list of events, by location or category, is available from collegeaware.ie.
Students are never too young to think about going to third level and it is the belief that this goal can be achieved, as well as hard work, which can make difference to whether or not a student enters third level and goes on complete their course of study.
Best of luck to all the guidance counsellors, teachers, mentors, colleges and everyone else involved in College Awareness Week.
Open Day - Griffith College Cork
Open Day - Griffith College Dublin
Open Day - Griffith College Limerick
Open Day - National College of Art & Design
Open Day - National College of Ireland
NUI Galway Information Evening - Letterkenny NUI Galway
Dublin Region Adult Education Fair, Radisson Blu Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin
Open Day - Galway-Mayo IT, Letterfrack
Open Days (2 Days) - Maynooth University
Open Days (2 Days) - Pontifical University St Patricks College Maynooth
Drop-in-day - Cavan Institute
UCD Geology DN200 MPG Workshop -University College Dublin
CAO Evening - Dublin Business School
General Open Evening - Dublin Business School
Open Day - Pallaskenry Agricultural College
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin