Friday 17 November 2017

Know what to expect at interview for further education college place

Be prepared for college interviews. Photo: Getty Images.
Be prepared for college interviews. Photo: Getty Images.

Aoife Walsh

At this time of year, many further education (FE) colleges are inviting their first round of applicants to attend interviews. The further education sector offers a wide variety of courses at Level 5 and Level 6, often referred to as Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses.

Many students enter these courses from Leaving Certificate or when returning to education. For the majority of courses, applicants are required to have five passes in the traditional Leaving Certificate or a pass at Leaving Certificate Applied. Mature applicants who may not have these requirements will also be considered. Places are normally allocated after the applicant has attended an interview.

The interviewers are normally a selection of teaching staff from the course to which you are applying and/or other staff. They are aware that this is the first experience of an interview for many applicants.

Questions are not designed to put applicants on the spot or trick them in any way and most of the interviewers are more than happy to help along anyone who is feeling a bit nervous or unsure of themselves.

Interviewers are trying to assess if the applicant and the course are a good fit for each other. They will ask questions about the content of the course, the experience of the applicant and how the course fits into your career plan.

Some colleges may ask applicants to bring along examples of work, especially if applying for a creative course. However, they are looking for evidence of interest and effort and do not expect applicants to have developed a high level of skill just yet. The college may also ask for a reference from school and/or recent reports.

In general, further education colleges do not have a closing date for applications and are happy to continue to accept applications until the course and waiting lists are full.

However, this sector is becoming increasingly popular and students should apply as early as possible to ensure the best chance of a place.

How to prepare

Applicants should spend time looking over the course information. They should be familiar with the content of the course and prepared to answer questions like: what subject are you most looking forward to and why?

It is also important to be ready to talk about how the particular course will help achieve long-term goals, whether the applicant intends to use it as a stepping stone to third-level or wants to enter the workforce on completion.

Further education colleges often point out that applicants don't tell them about work experience or other interesting information about themselves until the very last moment of the interview because the applicant feels it is not relevant.

Applicants should talk about everything they have done in the past and let them decide if it is relevant or not. If nothing else, it might show a variety of interests.

Applicants should also think about what they are going to wear, which should be smart. They should arrive in plenty of time, relax and let the interview panel see their personality and enthusiasm.

Important dates this week:


Enrolment day: Ballsbridge College of FE

Interviews: Ballyfermot College of FE (Three days)

Open day: Bray Institute of FE

Open day: Listowel Community College

Open day: Mountbellew Agricultural College


Open day: Castlebar College of FE

Open day: Monaghan Institute FE

Information evening: NUI Galway (taking place in Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh)

Open day: O’Fiaich Institute FE, Dundalk

March 14

Information morning: Carlow Institute of FE

UCC Maths and Science Careers Talks

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

Irish Independent

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