Subject choice – going to college

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


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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