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Students' embarking on their career journey – Is Féidir linn

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Archive for March 14th, 2018

Walking On Air

Posted by Francis O' Toole on March 14, 2018



Out on sale now

  • A page turner book about resilience
  • Short stories and poems to support positive approaches to life
  • Personal stories to support authentic  reflection on life

“All profits from proceeds of the book to go to help the Peter McVerry trust, a charity working to reduce homelessness

Purchases Walking On Air

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CAO – 2018 – 4 Most popular courses

Posted by Francis O' Toole on March 14, 2018


The Central Applications Office (CAO) has today released 2018 application data up to the Change of Course Choices closing date of 1st March. Latest CAO figures show what sectors applicants chose for their first preference. A total of 72,643 applications were received by CAO by the 1st February closing date, this was a decrease of 4.5% on 2017 applications. Mature student applications were also down by 1,168 – a 12% drop from 2017.

The upturn in the economy with more job vacancies and greater availability and uptake of apprenticeships may account for some of the decrease in college applications this year. Mature students may also have been drawn to the increased opportunities available through Springboard+.  However, the number of applications may still increase as the late application process will be open (with restrictions) until 1st May.

Examined by subject group, the initial Level 8 data shows some valuable insights. The data released by CAO gives an indication of the sectors that attracted most interest this year. So here is a list of the risers and fallers of 2018.

The Risers

  • Education: Last year saw a 2% decrease in the number of applications applying for courses in education. There was speculation that two-tier pay scales may be off-putting for applicants but this year there has been a 4% increase in applications to education courses dispelling that theory. Figures released show  8% increase in first preference for primary school teaching and 4% increase in secondary teaching. Applications for secondary teaching programmes in DCU alone have gone up by 13%. The points for teaching dropped slightly in 2017 and perhaps this has prompted a surge in teaching applications.
  • Biological and Related Sciences: This has been a sector of continuous growth in recent years with many biopharma companies choosing to locate to Ireland. Projected levels of employment in biopharma are very promising and it is anticipated that employment in the biopharma industry will reach 33,200 in 2020. First preference choices for Biological and Related Sciences has gone up by 10% this year.
  • Engineering: Good news on the engineering front with an increase of 6% in first preference choices. Engineering applications were down last year which resulted in a significant drop in points for many engineering courses. Fortunately, the interest in engineering has been restored this year. There is an acute shortage of engineering professionals in Ireland and the sector is enjoying a period of growth. Issuing work permits outside the EEA has been necessary to fill these vacant positions.
  • Agriculture: First choice preferences in agriculture are up by 6%. Good news for the agri – food industry that has experienced growth and will continue to expand. The National agri-food strategy Food Wise 2025 is working to create 23,000 new jobs in this area.

The Fallers


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Subject choice – going to college

Posted by Francis O' Toole on March 14, 2018

Going to College: Important tips for making your Leaving Cert subject choices

Right now, schools across the country are asking their third year and transition year students to choose the subjects they would like to take for Leaving Cert. These are important decisions, but students often get caught up focusing on entry requirements for college. This can lead to them feeling overwhelmed and can result in mistakes being made.

In reality, colleges have less complicated requirements than one may think, as well as a number of entry routes to most career options. It makes better sense to choose subjects that will assist the student in achieving the best results they can. This will give the student more options in the future.

I’m my opinion, subject selection has a great influence on how a student performs at Leaving Cert overall and here are three considerations which will help any student make good choices:

Choose subjects you enjoy

Every subject at Leaving Cert is challenging. Most schools offer five class periods a week or three hour-long periods for each subject. In addition, students should be doing two to three hours further study in their own time. This means a lot of time engaging with individual subjects. By choosing subjects which they enjoy, students will find this less of a challenge and even enjoyable.

Students are likely to perform better in subjects they enjoy, resulting in higher grades, higher CAO points and, therefore, more options after Leaving Cert. Students are also likely to pursue third-level courses related to subjects they enjoyed at school.

Consider subjects you are good at

One way students can maximise their results is by playing to their strengths. It is likely that by choosing subjects they are good at, they are also choosing areas they hope to study or work in in the future. Consider Junior Cert results if they are available. It is important not only to look at the subjects in which they achieved the highest grades, but also why students performed best in these. Perhaps the subject was taught by a favourite teacher, perhaps a large project component helped. Many students may also have participated in some aptitude testing – consider these results and discuss them with someone who is able to interpret them, such as a guidance counsellor. Other testing is available on

Subject requirements

Subject requirements for entry to third level are often less complex than originally thought. If students have ideas about what they would like to study after school, they should research the entry requirements for these courses thoroughly in a variety of different institutions.

If students are not yet clear on what they would like to study at third level, they should research the requirements for a number of different areas and consider common themes. This can be done on where students can enter key words that will produce a list of relevant courses and their descriptions. Some Leaving Cert subjects are never required for college entry. Students should pay particular attention when considering their choices in the areas of languages, sciences and technical subjects.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin


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