Looking ahead to September 2021, Career Guidance Counsellor Rory White from Careers Advice Northwest has a helpful guide for students as they research college options:
Put plenty of thought into your college application:
The time of year has rolled around once again where students should be beginning to think about the often daunting task of selecting courses for their college applications. Unfortunately, every year there are a significant number of students that drop out of college early when they realise the course they applied for isn’t what they thought it was going to be like.
Your aim should be to try and not let this happen to you. Ultimately, it is YOUR decision as to which courses will end up on your final application and it will be you that will hopefully begin the right course in September 2021. To try and avoid making a poor course choice, there are quite a number of ways in which you can become much better informed about the courses you are thinking about.
Go online for your Open Day experiences, and more…
This year isn’t normal in terms of how students traditionally find out about the colleges and courses that are out there. Ordinarily, coach loads of students would be making their way to Open Days across the country, Careers Fairs will have been attended and guest speakers would be brought into school for talks. Covid and the need for social distancing has made the majority of these not an option. And while it is true that nothing beats being there, there are still many ways that you can try to ‘feel the vibe’ of a prospective college.
College marketing departments have been extremely busy organising a huge array of virtual events, Open Days, college tours, webinars, talks and live Q&A sessions to get their information across. Students should tune into these and should also pay attention to the social media streams of the colleges. Follow their Facebook and Instagram pages, even go into more detail and follow a particular department for a closer look at what they have to offer. Parents can also tune into information webinars and talks.
Don’t be lazy with your course choice!
Unfortunately, the nature of things means that some students can be ‘lazy’ and only look at the title of the course and stick it down on their application. To leave it at that is extremely foolish. Students should go deeper and find out as much as they can about what the course involves before committing to it. There is so much more information you can gather about a course and so many ways to do this.
Where should I look for more information?
The good old college prospectus or the college website is a great place to start. Your Guidance Counsellor should be able to furnish you with a recent prospectus which will have tons of info in it about the course and the college itself, while the college websites can often be more up to date and contain more information.
There are also a couple of ‘bible’ careers websites that all students should familiarise themselves with www.careersportal.ie and www.qualifax.ie being two of the more popular among Irish students. Careers Portal in particular has lots of information in relation to career areas with videos and career stories across a wide variety of careers and then links to the courses that lead into these careers.
Youtube is also a really excellent source for videos that will help illustrate to you what a particular career entails. Many students may not have considered Youtube as a tool and this visual way of finding out the information can be really helpful.
Have a closer look at how the course will be taught
When you find a course of interest to you, your next step should be to delve deeper into it. There a few key questions to ask here-
Have you looked closely at the modules taught in the course?
Are they mandatory or elective?
Do you know if there is a work experience element built into the course?
Will you have the opportunity to travel as a part of your course?
Use your own network. Get talking!
Everyone applying to college should try to get as much information as they can from the people who have been there and done that. Talk to your guidance counsellor, ask them questions or send them an email. Talk to your teachers, they often know you quite well. Many of you will also know someone who has either been to or is still at college or even just knows someone who could have some little nuggets of good information for you. Ask them what they think of it, what is the best part about it, what is the hardest part of it, have they any advice for you etc…
Just a little word of warning here to be your own person and try to make a rounded judgement of your own. Just because someone says they love or hate the course, might not mean the same for you. Take what they are saying on board but keep this in mind.
Some other key considerations to think about.
Aside from trying to make sure you select the correct course for you, there are also some extremely important questions that you should also give due consideration to-
Do you want to study close to home or would you prefer to move away?
What will the financial implications be? Fees, accommodation costs, etc
What are your career prospects likely to be when you finish?
Selecting the course you will be studying next year is quite a big decision, and big decisions should be given time and really should not be rushed into. Put the time and effort into it and hopefully it will all be very worthwhile, you owe this to yourself. Best of luck!
Rory has been a Guidance Counsellor at Finn Valley College for the past 10 years and is a member of the Donegal Branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.
Applying for college or changing careers is one of the most important and exciting decisions someone can make, and Rory will be here to offer advice and top tips on the many options that are available.Tags: