Saturday 24 August 2019

More than one route to college


Katherine Donnelly
Katherine Donnelly
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Congratulations to all those who received college offers in CAO Round 1.

Most should be happy because at least four in five have received one of their top three choices.

Inevitably there will be disappointment for those who either got no offer or one that was down their list of preferences. There will be those who received an offer for a preferred course, but who may already have decided that they don't want it.

And there are others who sat the Leaving Cert in June but who never applied to the CAO and may still be wondering what to do next.

The good news is that there are plenty of options available and this supplement highlights the many and varied routes to further study and a career.

This year has brought a remarkable CAO Round 1 with some offers being made at an unprecedented 601 points. Many other programmes have also seen a rise in points, but equally there are popular courses for which the points have fallen.

High cut-off points can dazzle but they should not be allowed to distract.

Points are a mechanism used to manage entry into higher education but they are not an indicator of whether graduates of a particular course will have a more, or less, fulfilling career and a happier life. What matters most in course choice and college entry is that the individual gets a good match for their skillset and passions.

They are the students who do best in college and, after they graduate, anything is possible. This supplement has personal stories of many students who bear that out - some very glad they didn't get their first choice, and some who only discovered in first year of college, or on a pre-college course, where their heart really lay.

One of the features of CAO 2019 is the growing gap between demand for Level 8, honours degree programmes and others in higher education, principally the institutes of technology, at Level 7/6.

Many CAO applicants will have received offers at both Level 8 and Level 7/6 and THEA, the body representing the institutes, has rightly asked that they "give real consideration to all of their options before making a final decision".

Level 7/6 courses can be a route into employment or a stepping stone to an honours degree and that approach is the one that suits many students better.

THEA's Dr Jim Murray noted research showing Level 7/6 graduates had "exceptionally high" progression rates of 96pc into employment or further study.

Other opportunities abound, including post-Leaving Cert courses, apprenticeships and traineeships, whose doors are open for new entrants.

But college is not for every school-leaver, and, even if it is, not necessarily in the year they leave school.

For anyone with any concerns, there is plenty of support available and I hope that this supplement plays its part in assisting navigation on the road ahead, whatever that may be.

Good luck to all!

Irish Independent

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