Higher Options: how can I choose the right course?

The good news is there have never been so many options available to school-leavers

1. Know yourself

Imagine you’re in college and out on the town with your friends. The next morning you have an early lecture at 9am. Will you be there? Will you have the motivation and interest to stick with the course?

If you look at your life so far, you’ll find lots of jigsaw pieces which make up what you are interested in. It may be the subject you enjoy most; the project you worked hardest on without being nagged; the hobbies you’re involved in outside of school.

In committing to an area that really engages you, you will need an interest and passion to flourish in your chosen course and career.


No one can predict what the jobs market will be like in a few years time, but in focusing on an area that you have a real drive for, you can be sure you’ll grow, develop and realise your full potential.

2. There are lots of routes to your chosen career

The idea that the CAO is like Becher’s Brook – the famously tall jump in the Grand National – is a complete fallacy.

There really are many different ways to progress to your chosen career.

If you, for example, miss out on a high points university course like Bess (business, economics and social studies), there are often business Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses with routes into the very same college courses. The same is true of lots of courses, whether its law, science, arts, etc.

There are new tertiary degree options, which begin in further education and offer a guaranteed route into university, without the need for CAO points.

And there are over 1,000 courses all through English delivered in European universities – generally with lower academic requirements than in Ireland

3. Think about apprenticeships, traineeships and further education

We all learn in different ways – and apprenticeships are great for those who like to learn on-the-job.

Unlike standard college courses, an apprenticeship allows you to earn money and become qualified while you are learning on-the-job, opening up exciting and rewarding careers.

They used to be only available in the construction or motor industry – nowadays, there are available in insurance, financial services and more besides.

Many of the new ones also award a degree at the end of the period of study as well.

4. Don’t follow what’s up and down in the economy

A few years ago, when the property bubble burst, school leavers avoided progressing to any courses in construction or architecture.

Yet, by the time they would have graduated, the market had recovered and there were acute skills shortages.

Don’t be led by what’s up and down in the economy – they always follow cycles.

Use your head and your heart in choosing the course that’s right for you.

5. Do your own research

Go to events such as Higher Options, attend college open days, talk to students or anyone in the area of work or study you’re interested in.

Use interest profilers and look at your exam results to see where your strengths lie.

Don’t listen blindly to your parents. They may want the best for you, but this is your decision.

The more you know, the higher your chances of making the decision that’s right for you.

There’s no panic – if you’re a Leaving Cert student you can still finalise your courses right up to the end of June.

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