Aoife Walsh: 'When choosing Leaving Cert subjects, focus on what you will enjoy'
Although there are many options open to students as they move from junior cycle to senior cycle, the majority will take traditional programme, known as the Leaving Certificate (Established). The other programmes are the LCVP, which gives a strong vocational dimension to the Leaving Cert (Established), and the Leaving Cert Applied.
Regardless of whether they choose to progress directly from third year or to complete Transition Year, at some point students must think about choosing their Leaving Cert subjects. These are very important decisions and can have an impact on a student's Leaving Cert results and third-level options.
However, when trying to make these decisions, many students and families get caught up with trying to ensure that they select the correct subjects for third-level entry requirements. This can lead to students feeling so overwhelmed to a point that they make mistakes in their choices and may miss out on some opportunity in the future.
When supporting my students to choose their Leaving Cert subjects, I advise them to focus on what they are good at and what they enjoy. Once they have fully considered these two factors, I ask them to spend a little time thinking about what they may need.
There are a number of reasons why I approach Leaving Cert subject choice in this way. Firstly, the majority of young people do not know what career or study area they would like to pursue, so asking them to focus on entry requirements seems like a pointless exercise, which will do little more than create stress. Secondly, colleges have less complicated requirements than one may think, as well as a range of entry routes that can lead to the same career destinations. Therefore, it makes better sense to choose Leaving Cert subjects that will assist the student in achieving the best results they possibly can which, in turn, will open up more options for them in the future. Students often hope to pursue areas at third level in which they have been successful in school - so it is likely that by choosing subjects they are good at, they are also choosing subjects they will study or work at in the future.
There are a number of ways we can help young people to understand their individual strengths.
Firstly, consider Junior Cert results if they are available. It is important not only to look at the subjects in which the student achieved the highest grades, but also why the student performed best in these. Perhaps the subject was taught by a favourite teacher, perhaps a large project component helped.
Many students may also have participated in some aptitude testing. It is important to consider these results and discuss them with someone who is able to interpret them, such as a guidance counsellor. Other testing is available on the website, careersportal.ie.
If I were to weigh these by importance, I would give 80pc to what you are good at and what you enjoy, and 20pc to what you might need.
Every subject at Leaving Cert is challenging. Most schools offer five class periods, or three hour-long periods, a week for each subject. In addition, students should be doing two to three hours further study in their own time. This means students will be spending a lot of time engaging in subjects for the next two years.
By choosing subjects that they like and are good at, students will find that the study load is less onerous and even enjoyable.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
Q I have not yet made any PLC applications, but I see there are many open days and interview sessions being held this week. Am I too late?
A It is never too late to apply for a further education (FE) course, generally known as post-Leaving Cert (PLC) courses, and it is always a good idea to explore what is on offer. Most FE colleges will accept applications at the open days and some even hold mini interview sessions on these days.
It is important to consider why you might like to enrol in an FE course. You may wish to take a short course in your area of interest to ensure it is right for you; you may wish to use a further education qualification to gain entry to third level or you may wish to gain a qualification and then enter the world of work.
Next, attend some open days. Ensure you are prepared and have identified a list of questions you would like answered. Finally, submit an application. Further education applications are very straightforward and are submitted to individual colleges.
Colleges will continue to accept applications until all places are filled. It is important to note that, as many colleges are currently holding their first round of interviews, popular courses will fill up immediately. If you have not yet applied, now is the time to do so.