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The road less travelled: Just because everyone else is going to college straight away, doesn't mean it's the right path for you

Just because everyone else is going to college straight away, doesn't necessarily mean it's the right path for you. Here, Shauna McCrudden talks about the options available


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"Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost

We have all been there. The stress of the Leaving Certificate, waiting anxiously for the results and then waiting again for that all-important CAO letter. This stressful summer is then followed by the start of a whole new voyage into college only a few months after finishing school. New friends, new studies, new home; it is everything all at once.

There are also students who might not have earned enough points to be accepted onto their dream course. This can understandably cause anxiety and a feeling of dejection to the point where they might not feel like going to college at all.

But, the traditional route of going straight into college is not the journey for everyone, and it certainly wasn't the journey for me. It is being replaced by other possibilities, from taking a year out to completing a post-Leaving Certificate course. These other options can help make your life the one you want to live.


Deferring* a year before going to college has many benefits, and I would know, since this is the choice I made. Having attended school for 14 years non-stop, it was difficult for me to immediately jump into more formal education, so soon after saying goodbye to my school uniform. At 18, I didn't feel ready for university. I decided to defer my place in the BA in History in UCD for one year, while I got the hang of adult life.

During my year, I started a job and saved money for my upcoming college term. This year gave me the opportunity to work in the real world and it made me realise just how important it is to have a college education! I had time to learn new things without the stress of exams looming over me. I started writing seriously during that year, which is how I realised that writing was what I wanted to do with my life. That one year did so much for me and I am forever grateful that I chose to make that decision. So, it could be the right choice for you too.

*Even if the points increase for your course in the next year, your spot is still saved for you. However, always check if your college of choice accepts deferrals.


Sometimes you might not get the points you need. Or, sometimes you need time to build up a portfolio in order to be accepted on a course. There are plenty of options available for those who require an extra boost on their applications.

There are many institutions around Ireland which offer Level 5 and Level 6 courses which can be used as stepping stones for a degree course.

Louise Curtin, from Dublin, wants to be a graphic designer. In order to get the amount of points required and the time to create the perfect portfolio of work, she attended Marino College of Further Education after her Leaving Certificate and did a Level 5 course in graphic design.

"I needed to create a portfolio showing my art and design skills and I felt like this was too much work to do while I was also doing the Leaving Cert," says Louise. "I decided to take a year to really get it right while also furthering my education.

"On my course I had the opportunity to go on work placement which has really opened my eyes to what happens in a real workplace environment. I have completed my portfolio and work experience and I am now in a much better position to enter my degree course this September."


Occasionally, college is not the right choice right now. Maybe you need more time than just a year to figure out what you want to do; maybe you dropped out of another course; or perhaps you were waylaid by work or family commitments and now think it's too late. But, there is always an option to go to college no matter how 'old' you think you are.

There are many advantages to being a mature student:

■ Most universities specifically set aside several college places for mature students, which means there is usually less competition.

■ You may be in a much better financial situation than you were when you were 18, so mum and dad don't need to be called every weekend for money!

■ The wealth of experience a mature student has is used in conjunction with CAO points to see if they are suited to the course. This means there is more opportunity for those who didn't get the points they wanted.

There is always another road. And sometimes the one less travelled can make all the difference.

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