How to find the right course for you
Five practical tips on how to choose your CAO course
Choosing the right course can be daunting. For years you have sat in classes in school hoping to get through your exams and suddenly you have to decide on your whole future! Perhaps you have always loved music and want to study it more. Or, maybe you're great at maths and think you could be an accountant. There are so many choices that it can get overwhelming.
According to the Higher Education Authority of Ireland, on average around 14pc of students don't progress from first year to second year in college. A significant proportion of these students drop out because they picked the wrong course for them. So, it is best to take your time, think over your interests and passions and choose wisely.
Derval Chambers Petit, Life & Business Coach and Trainer from Dublin, says that in order to figure out your path, it's best to list your skills, talents and interests so you can try to decide what you want to do with your life.
"It is obviously important to take your grades into account, but you have to dig deeper to really identify what you are good at, what interests and energises you."
"Step back from your situation and remove any pressure you may be putting on yourself. There are steps students can take to make sure they know what they really want to do."
Follow your own path
Figure out what drives and motivates you. What gets you out of bed in the morning and what makes you happy?
"Think ahead five or ten years and consider the contribution and impact you would like to have in your career," says Derval. "Identify the type of jobs which might relate to that and then work backwards from there to help identify and confirm what you want to study.
"If you already have ideas of what you want to study, write down beside each one why you are considering it, what it is about these that interest you and if they are in line with what you want for the future."
But, sometimes you may not have a passion or an interest that you wish to make into a career. Many students may choose the subject they are good at or a career that they believe leads to a more secure financial life. Check out pages 6 and 7 for the top skills that are in various industries today.
Do the research
Not every 17 or 18 year old knows exactly what they want to study. But, you can take steps to be as sure as you can be by doing the research about the courses available and not be pressured by those around you.
"Take some time out for yourself to think about what you really want. People can get very confused when other people weigh in on their choices or try to influence them to go down certain paths. Try to avoid being influenced by what your friends are doing or what others say you 'should' or 'shouldn't' do. This only leads to making choices that aren't the right fit."
Think about a course that interests you, check college websites, attend university open days and try to speak to past students of the course. Don't limit your options by the proximity of the institution or where your friends might be going. Your future is your own to create.
Perhaps you want to study engineering. But which type?
There are over 100 different types of engineering so make sure you know what you are signing up to. You don't want to enter a biomedical engineering course and find out you really wanted to be a mechanical engineer.
Once you find a course that interests you, study the modules with a fine-tooth comb. There could be restrictions you never knew about, difficulties with progressing to where you want, or not enough practical lab experience. There may be a similar course in another college which offers an elective you really wanted to take, smaller class sizes and work experience, but you didn't do enough research to know about it.
Always be specific about your requirements before you sign up for a course.
Figure out college life
While choosing the course itself is incredibly important, knowing what to expect while attending college is the key to being prepared.
At the university open days, speak to students and teachers about college life at the campus. Costs can affect many students and is a prime reason for why students drop out or don't attend college.
Look at the costs of accommodation, travel and find out if you have any fees to pay. See if the college environment suits your personality, if it has a good nightlife or fun activities to keep you occupied. You will have to live in this area for three or four years, so make sure you choose wisely.
Speaking to a guidance counsellor or a career coach about your options can be a helping hand for any student. They may be able to guide you on the right path for your future.
"I think coaching can be very beneficial," says Derval. "It can help anyone of any age or any stage of life take stock of where they are at career and life wise. It helps them get clarity and direction and to help make choices and take steps towards these choices."
Counsellors and coaches are trained to help and they can even guide you to a course you never even thought about. There is lots of support when you go looking for it.
For more support and guidance on your life and career, visit www.dervalchamberspetit.ie