Research is key to finding the right course

Some students are still a bit unsure of their career direction when starting 6th Year. This may be because they don’t really know where to start, because they are unsure of themselves or because they feel like they should know their perfect course by now. But, there is no need to have it all figured out by now; choosing a career and a course is a process, and now is the time to work through that process.

Research, research, research

At this stage of the year, it is absolutely fine to not know which courses to place on the CAO form. However it is certainly time to start trying to find them. The most important job a 6th Year student has at the moment is to research, research, research.

Many students say to me that they are not sure what they want to do, or which courses interest them. The best way to get to a point of certainty is to read up on as many courses as possible.

Students should think about what they are reading and ask themselves questions like ‘what do I like about this course?’ ‘Is there any part that I don’t like?’ ‘Is there anything I don’t understand?’ ‘Do I like this more or less than the last course I read?’. Eventually, students will find that a small number of courses begin to stand out for them. These are the courses that are likely to take the top spaces on a student’s CAO form.

Seek maybes

There can be a temptation to search for the perfect courses. Doing this is more likely to hinder research rather than help it, and for two reasons.

Firstly, there is no such thing as a perfect course – it’s likely every course will contain aspects students will enjoy and dislike.

Secondly, this type of thinking will encourage students to find negatives rather than positives when reviewing courses. At this stage, students should aim to find as many ‘maybe courses’ as possible.

Later, students can attempt to organise all their ‘maybe courses’ in order of preference. This should enable them to identify their first preference more easily, with courses of less interest eventually dropping off the list.

Remember that applicants may fill up to 20 places on their CAO form so the more courses one can list the better.

Keep track of what you find

This may seem obvious, but I have worked with students who have told me they found their perfect course but can’t remember which college it was in or the course name. Once a student comes across a ‘maybe’ course, it is essential to record it. Most course search websites have a facility to create an account in which students can save their course description. If a student does not want to use this facility it can be just as effective to print out course descriptions and keep them all in the one folder.

Students can use ‘post-its’ to jot their question or thoughts onto the course descriptions and keep them for later.

Aoife Walsh

Author: Francis O' Toole

Francis O' Toole is a Educational Psychotherapist & Guidance Counsellor. I set up this blog page to help students gain as much information as possible to be able to make right choices and decisions regarding their career options. I believe that we will be very successful in our careers if we follow what we enjoy.

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