When it comes to further education, we in Ireland have so much to choose from. As a nation we love to learn, develop and expand our knowledge; we are an inquisitive nation, hence the numerous educational institutions in our cities and towns, indeed the world that offer so many types of course options / designs for students completing their Leaving Certificate:

  • University
  • Institute of Technology
  • Post Leaving Certificate
  • Mature Student
  • EU options

English is our speaking language, which makes learning easier, giving us more options when it comes to choosing a course outside of Ireland (an option that some people fail to consider).

Students facing the prospect of what to study as part of their further education next September need to consider all of the above options. These options are decided upon the students expected points from the Leaving Certificate.

Let us explore the five areas:

1. University

To secure a place in a University requires you to choose Level 8 courses (Honours Degree). You will be given 10 to choose in the Central Applications Form (CAO). www.qualifax.ie has all the information of these courses with the previous three year point requirements detailed.

2. Institute of Technologies

The Institute of Technologies also offer Level 8 courses, though Level 6 / Level 7 (Higher Certificate / Ordinary Degree) are their main offerings. These educational institutions also provide and offer more practical courses, where point requirements can be usually lower than a University. Again everything is shared in www.qualifax.ie.

3. Post Leaving Certificate

Post Leaving Certificate Courses (also known as PLC’s) offer Level 5 and Level 6 courses and are there to help students consider a different route to their ideal career, should they not achieve the required points for University or the Institute of Technology’s. Again www.qualifax.ie lists all the colleges offering these PLC courses and the many courses that one can choose from. Based on the marks achieved in PLC’s, students can enter Institute of Technology’s to pursue their Third Level Education dreams, where places are allocated.

4. Mature Student

A Mature Student is identified as someone who is 23 years young or over, where they can pursue further education in Universities and Institute of Technology’s. They may for whatever reason not have been able to pursue further education immediately after completing the Leaving Certificate and now have an opportunity to educate themselves in their chosen career and make it a reality. All courses offer a certain number of places for mature students.

5. EU Options

Courses in Europe are now becoming more popular as many are thought through the medium of English. There are over 700 courses offered to students all taught through the English language that students from Ireland can choose from. A lot of these courses have no or low fees associated with them. Check out a website called www.eunicas.ie who can help students consider all the options here.

Central to all of the above is your points i.e. how many points will I achieve in my Leaving Certificate. Calculate your worst and your best and take the average based on past exams and tests. This figure is never too far away from the actual.

Work hard, do your best…and the choice can be yours…!

Many students find the task of studying daunting, difficult and challenging. They spend many hours during the day and / or evenings (and weekends) attending classes, whether they be students or mature students in Second Level, Third Level or Life-long Learning. Why is it that finding the enthusiasm and discipline to study can be so hard?

  • We feel we know what we have heard or read
  • It is fresh in our mind
  • We have other more important things to be doing
  • We will study as it gets closer to the examinations
  • We don’t feel like it
  • We are waiting for the inspiration and the need to study
  • We don’t want to study
  • We will ‘wing it’ on the day of the exams
  • We will put in nights of focused / last minute study just before the exams

Many students don’t know how to study. They have never been thought how to read / listen to new information after they have just read or heard it and then how to revise it a few months / year later prior to being assessed on it. Themselves, their parents / guardians believe they are doing it correctly and properly, whatever way they are doing it. As long as we / they are locked away in a room, we are studying.

The way of studying for many people is reading over and over again the learning from that day or the previous day. They study in unsuitable places where there is noise, distraction and interference. They think music playing or a TV on in the background is OK. They think there mobile telephone must always be beside them in case they miss something or they need to contact a class mate to ask them a question or for help is a must. They fail to realize that a study period is just themselves on their own without distraction or interruption for a certain period of time.

Much of a student’s time after the learning exercise is taken up with homework. Again this time for doing and completing homework prior to the next class requires dedicated focus, time and discipline. Homework is intended to complete the learning from the class and to further instill it in the mind, it is not intended to be a frustrating or repetitive chore that is designed to test the student’s patience. There is a reason for it, which is to help the student start the study process and prepare the student for the relevant exam.

So, how does a student complete their homework and study a midst all the other more important things they have to do in their lives?

  • Choose a suitable location, place to study that encourages a safe, conducive learning environment
  • Set and organize a desk / filing / storage system with everything in its place and a place for everything
  • Design a timetable that encompasses homework time and study time in the right proportion (75 : 25 early in the year leading to 25 : 75 towards examination time to 0 : 100 before / during examination time
  • Put this timetable on print placing it over your desk
  • Design a way of note-taking and summarising information for easy review near examination time
  • As a start do homework / study for 45 minutes and then take a 15 minute break over a period of 3-4 hours

Be disciplined and enthusiastic, and remember that without enthusiasm, discipline will not always make you do something…


You may have thought that this time in yours or your teenagers life would never have come, but here you are with less than a month to making what some believe to be the most important decision in your life – choosing a further education course after your secondary education or Leaving Certificate. It is a time where one needs to look out into the future and picture what they would like to do for the rest of their lives i.e. choosing an ideal and realistic career. However way you decide, the process of choosing, processing and applying takes place through the Central Applications Office, better known to all of us as the CAO.

The Central Applications Office (CAO – a not-for-profit organisation) has been given the task by the Higher Education Institutions in the Republic of Ireland to process and manage applications for first year undergraduate courses and programmes.  Once completed, the participating educational institutions make the decisions on who to accept or not.

CAO Handbooks should already be in the schools and first round applications are due by 5.15pm 1st February 2013 at an on-line or on paper fee of € 40.00.  CAO offer a discounted fee of € 25.00 if they receive your application online by 5.15pm 20th January 2013.  Change of mind closing dates for course choices occur 1st March and 1st July (Check www.cao.ie for exact details).

For many students and their parents / guardians, this is a very stressful time.  What courses do I choose, where and in what order?  These are critical decisions in a young person’s life who wishes to pursue third level education; they will possibly only get one chance.  20 courses need to be chosen (10 for Level 8 and 10 for Level 7 & Level 6).

The following considerations may help in completing the CAO process with more confidence and belief:

  1. Confirm that you want to continue studying for another 3-5 years
  2. Assess what is your realistic ‘Points’ target figure
  3. Are you a people’s person, a hands-on person or a mind person; one is always dominant, which one are you?
  4. Visualize what type of working environment you would love to be going into in say four years time on a Monday morning at 8.00am
  5. Review, analyse past achievements / successes where your natural strengths, talents, competencies exuded and came to the fore
  6. What are your interests, what are you passionate about? (may not be something you want to make a living from, but do give it some thought!)
  7. Choose courses that interests you at Levels 6, 7 and 8
  8. Choose course academic institutions that interest you considering institution reputation i.e.will they impress a reader of your CV in the future, where are they located, choice and cost of accommodation)
  9. If you are still unsure, choose a course that is generic i.e. that will give you more than one employment option or that will open up more than one door of opportunity for you in employment and indeed further education
  10. Ask the question, ‘How do I want to make a difference to the world of the future’?
  11. Remember if have two more opportunities to change your mind and choices

Once you get to 16, you’ve got some decisions to make about your future. Do you want to stay on in full-time education after completing the Leaving Certificate? Or would you prefer to start work and get training while you earn? Whichever route you choose, it pays to keep learning. More and more, employers are looking for people with higher level skills and qualifications. Although qualifications cannot guarantee you a job, people who have the right skills and qualifications have a better chance of finding a job with good prospects and more job security than those who don’t.

What type of a career would suit you?

One of the first pitfalls that people fall into when planning a career is to start out with the career instead of with themselves. Most of us can easily fool ourselves into believing certain things about our own personalities, attitudes, aptitudes, and characters. If you start with specific careers, you might end up narrowing your choices based on various opinions such as what you THINK you are good at, rather than what you actually ARE good at.

A good way to start planning your career is to think about what motivates you as a person.

Try to gain a better understanding of yourself, your needs, goals, plans, character, personality. Make a list of activities you have enjoyed – both inside and outside school or college. What was it about them that you liked? There are no Right or Wrong answers – for example, you might find that you enjoyed:

  • getting to know more about a particular subject
  • solving challenging problems
  • working as part of a team
  • meeting new people
  • working with your hands
  • working outdoors versus indoors

Once you have got a clear idea of your interests, the next step is to start looking for a career that matches up with them and then working back to identify what qualifications you require to make this career a reality.

When it comes to realizing your ideal career, start with yourself…and…choose a career that will open up more than just one door for you!