Third year students face big decisions this month as they decide on Leaving Cert subjects and the level at which to take them. This decision is important, as it can have long-term consequences on what courses and careers are open to students.
Guidance Counsellor Rory White from Careers Advice Northwest has advice on the most important things to consider when selecting subjects:
Programme Choice before Subject Choice!
For third year students all around the country it is decision time. Firstly, students are deciding on whether to opt for Transition Year or to progress straight onto Senior Cycle. For those opting for TY, decisions on your Subject Choice can be left until next year. However, for those opting to enter Senior Cycle and those coming to the end of TY, it is time to decide on what you will study for your final two years in Secondary School. You have three programme options here-
- Leaving Certificate Applied
- Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme
- Leaving Certificate (Traditional)
Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) is a practical programme with a strong emphasis on Work Experience. Students are awarded ‘Credits’ throughout two years of continuous assessment with the final exams only counting for around a third of the marks. For students who wish to progress to college after school, it must be noted that LCA is not recognised for entry into 3rd Level, so a PLC or Access course would be required.
The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) is often referred to as an ‘enhanced’ Leaving Certificate. Essentially the difference is the inclusion of two ‘Link Modules’ called Preparation for the World of Work and Enterprise Education. To be eligible for LCVP students must be studying subjects from specific subject groupings.
The traditional Leaving Certificate is the most common option followed by students and will typically involve students studying the three core subjects of Gaeilge, English and Maths along with four others subjects.
Is subject choice really that important?
The simple answer is yes! Considerable time should be put into choosing your subjects carefully, as the wrong choices here may have some unintended consequences in a couple of years’ time when choosing your college courses.
How many subjects do I have to do?
The majority of students study seven subjects for their Leaving Certificate. Some students may qualify and opt to study LCVP so they will have Link Modules as an eighth subject while other students may decide to study an extra subject(s) outside of school in their own time.
What happens if I do not take a Third Language?
The term third language is essentially another language other than Gaeilge and English. National University of Ireland (NUI) Colleges require a pass in a third language for entry into a large number of their courses. These are Maynooth University, UCD, NUI Galway and UCC and some associated smaller colleges. Generally, the third language requirement is not needed for engineering and science programmes. Nursing also does not require a third language. Trinity College Dublin accepts Gaeilge as their language requirement. University of Limerick, DCU and the Institutes of Technology do not require a third language for most of their courses, apart from those where language forms part of the degree. A third language is also a requirement for entry into the cadetship in the army or air corps. An useful fact for students born in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK is that Gaeilge will suffice for the language requirement.
Should I choose a Science Subject?
Again, in order to keep options open, students should strongly consider including a science subject in their subject choice. Most scientific, engineering, medical and healthcare courses require at least one laboratory science subject. Many degrees in Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and some related fields of study will require two science subjects so interested students should check out the specific entry criteria for these courses. Careers Portal’s excellent CourseFinder is ideal for checking this out.
Are there any combinations of subjects that go well together?
There are a number of subject pairings that have common elements which can sometimes cut down on the workload for students. Subjects combinations that complement each other include Maths/Physics/Applied Maths; Biology/Agricultural Science/Home Economics; Business/Home Economics and Art/DCG/Construction Studies.
Do I need to choose my levels now and are they important?
Choosing whether to do Higher or Ordinary level is a decision that should be informed by your past performance and can be guided by your teachers. Levels can be very important indeed when it comes to admission into college courses. Two H5’s is a standard entry requirement for all Level 8 degrees. Some degrees have specific subject requirements for example, a H4 in Gaeilge is a requirement for Primary School Teaching or a H4 in Maths can be required for many Engineering, Science and Computing degrees, so take the time to explore the entry requirements.
I don’t know what I want to study in 3rd Level. What subjects should I choose?
The best advice is to keep your options open and to not block off any potential pathways for yourself. Generally, a third language and a science subject will keep most options open. For the other two subjects, choose ones that you enjoy and are good at.
Finally, here are the top tips for Subject Choice!
- Keep as many options open for yourself as possible
- Choose subjects that you will enjoy doing
- Choose subjects that you know you are good at
- Discuss with your parents, teachers and friends
- Research about each subject and its content on Careers Portal
- Do not be choosing a subject just because your friend is doing it!
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.
He also offers advice for students on careersportal.ie
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.