Saturday 18 November 2017

Going to college: Leaving Cert students must make the best of their time with the guidance counsellor

Contact Aoife at aoifewalsh@independent.ie Twitter: @edguidance. Photo: Tony Gavin
Contact Aoife at aoifewalsh@independent.ie Twitter: @edguidance. Photo: Tony Gavin

Aoife Walsh

In 2012 the protected hours available for guidance and counselling in schools were removed and, as a result, school leaders had to make difficult decisions between providing guidance and counselling or subject teaching. The consequence was many schools cut their guidance hours and education professionals ceased entering the training courses.

This year, there has been a partial re-introduction of previously available hours. However, it is near impossible for many schools to find suitably qualified candidates. As a result, there may be fewer hours available than ever in some schools.

Extra pressure on the guidance system means students should endeavour to make the most of this time. This is especially important for Leaving Cert students.

In many schools, the guidance counsellor's priority at this time of year is a careers meeting with Leaving Cert students. This is an opportunity for each student to discuss their individual needs with a professional who is impartial and focused on helping the student achieve their goals. Topics can include, but are not limited to, study and revision, courses, career path etc, and the content of the conversation will vary depending on the needs of individual students.

In order to make the best use of their time with the guidance counsellor, students should be clear on what they would like to achieve. The more research students have completed before the meeting, the better. The guidance counsellor can spend time showing the student websites and looking up courses with the student, but most students could do this work at home; the short amount of time with the guidance counsellor is better spent clarifying and working through the student's thoughts.

The guidance counsellor will also be able to suggest other areas a student could be looking at, point out discrepancies or gaps in their research, interpret the results of psychometric tests, and get a student started if they are having difficulties organising themselves. Guidance counsellors will also keep an eye out for signs of stress and anxiety in students.

The relationship between the guidance counsellor and the student should be collaborative. The student has the opportunity to discuss where they are and where they would like to get to. The guidance counsellor has expert knowledge on courses and opportunities, but will also help the student to tease out their ideas in an attempt to clarify their options. They are likely to suggest courses that may suit the student, but it is ultimately the student's decision, and these courses will require research.

The goal for a student is to leave the meeting having a clearer idea of what they want, and what they need to do next to work towards achieving your goals.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin.

Q I want to apply for UCAS. Is the deadline really October 15? That seems really early.

The first deadline for UCAS is indeed October 15. However, this is only for applicants who wish to apply for a small number of very high demand courses. These courses include medicine, veterinary and dentistry, and all courses at Oxford and Cambridge. The majority of other courses fall under the January 15 deadline.

If you are interested in applying for any of the above courses then it is essential your application is submitted to UCAS before October 15. That is a little over two weeks away. For any applicant who has not yet submitted, or begun, their application, it is essential to do so as soon as possible. Unlike the CAO, UCAS will begin processing applications as soon as they are received, so early submission can be beneficial.

In addition to the early deadline, these courses require applicants to participate in testing in order to gain entry as well as submission of a personal statement and reference. This process can take time and with just over two weeks to the deadline, it is time to prioritise this work.

Irish Independent

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