Choosing subjects for the Leaving Cert can be a difficult task for students and their parents. Concern stems from a need to ensure students do not rule themselves out of college courses they may wish to be considered for in the future. Although third level institutions have fewer requirements than one might think, one very important consideration is whether or not students should continue with a language.
This week, we look at some questions transition year and third year students may have as they begin to make the decisions that may influence their future choices. Many people wrongly believe that if a foreign language is not chosen by students, they will not be able to attend third level.
Some schools allow students not to take a language at Leaving Cert and many students who do not enjoy languages or find them difficult are happy to drop it. However, the decision to drop a language should not be taken lightly. Not having a modern language in your Leaving Certificate can greatly impact on choices in the future.
For most third level institutions, it is not necessary to have a foreign language in order to meet the matriculation requirement. For Trinity College Dublin, students are required to 'pass' English, another language and maths or Latin. The matriculation requirements for Dublin City University are maths and English or Irish. University of Limerick requires students to present English, maths and Irish or another language. Therefore, if a student does not take a foreign language at Leaving Cert, they should still meet the requirements for these universities as long as they take Irish or have an Irish exemption.
Institutes of technology generally expect students to have passes in English and maths for matriculation, so not choosing a language should have no impact on a candidate's ability to attend one of these institutions. Neither do PLC colleges require students to have taken a language.
However, students may find not taking a language a major problem when it comes to accessing the four NUI universities (UCC, NUI Galway, UCD and MU). All these colleges require students to hold an O6 or H7 in English and Irish in order to matriculate. Students must also hold an O6 or H7 in a third language to take courses in the arts, human sciences, law, social sciences, commerce, medicine and health sciences, and some other degrees. Students are not required to pass a language for entry to engineering or agricultural science. Maynooth University recently announced that it will no longer require students to have a modern European language for entry to some business courses.
A modern European language will also be required for application to cadetships in the Defence Forces.
The impact of all of the above for a student's course choices is that, while not choosing a language will not affect entry to the majority of third level institutions, it will restrict choice as they will be excluded from the majority of courses in NUI universities.
A student with an Irish exemption may apply for an exemption from the requirement to present Irish as a matriculation subject from their chosen institution. They may also apply to NUI for an exemption from the requirement to take a third language. All Level 8 (honours degree) courses require students to achieve two H5 grades and four O6 grades. Trinity requires students to achieve three H5s and three O6s for entry to Level 8 courses.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
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Q. My daughter wishes to drop out of her degree. She is a first year student and says she likes about one third of her course. She has a good Leaving Cert and high enough points. She has submitted a late application to the CAO, but we're wondering if she should leave now or is it possible to transfer to another course. What should she do?
A. It is not uncommon for students to have moments like this where they feel overwhelmed by work, unable to compete in the very different academic environment third level presents, or unclear about how this course can fit into their future. This is especially common in first year.
I would not rush into making any decision just yet. I think her first port of call is to explore why she wants to leave in a deep and meaningful way. This can be difficult to do with a parent, and perhaps a counsellor in college or locally would help. There may be something more to this, of which even she is not aware.
Next, find someone in the college to speak to about her concerns. No college wants students to drop out and it can be a matter of finding the right person. This may take a little persistence, something that can be difficult for a student who is already feeling a little inadequate in relation to college. Depending on the structure of the college, this may be a tutor, the careers department, a counsellor, head of course, etc. There may be opportunities to transfer within the college and these should be fully explored before making a decision.
It is possible to transfer college at the end of first year. In order to avail of this option, your daughter should complete first year and will be considered for other courses based on her end of first year results. Further information is available from the CAO or the college to which she wishes to transfer.
I would encourage her to finish first year, but you may wish to check if this will affect her liability for fees if she does wish to retake first year. She should aiming for the best results possible: this will help her if she does wish to transfer and she may also settle by the end of year, especially if she does better in her exams that she expects.