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Change of Mind Tips

When the hard slog of the Leaving Certificate is at its end you will have a short window to reflect on that CAO application and review your decisions about what you will study for the next number of years. International research tells us that wrong course choice is one of the major factors which leads to student drop out at college.

Working in the third level sector myself, this research is borne out every year as I meet new students who are disillusioned and find that college just doesn’t meet their expectations.

So how can you guard against this happening to you?

Choosing what you are interested in is key to success in college.

You need to re-examine your set of CAO choices with an ‘eagle’ eye. It is so important that your genuine preference for a course governs the order of your choice of course and that you have lots of choice in your application. Don’t be tempted to change your course order on the basis of your Leaving Certificate performance or on a whim that a course or college is more popular or that friends are changing their minds. Stay focused on yourself – you are the most important person in all of this and you need to take control. It is your journey.

Giving each course listed individual attention, you need to get below the surface and ask questions:

Am I really interested in this course? Do I know enough about it and the subjects I will be studying to make a commitment for three or four years? Have I looked ahead to the second and subsequent years of the course and how the course evolves?

Would you be happy to accept any course on your list?

A good test is to answer the following question about every course listed; if this course were offered to me in August - would I be happy to take it? If not, why not? If your answer is no, then think about why the course is on your list? This being the case, you will need to conduct further research, searching the college and course websites and using the many resources available which include: family, friends, the third level colleges, college students and graduates that you might know, your community and any contacts/networks you might have. Ask questions. A lot can be done in a short space of time.

Have you researched the colleges?

It is also very important to check out the colleges that you have listed. In choosing your college many things need to be considered such as: location, student numbers, course content, teaching methods, academic supports, college services, opportunities abroad, internships and so on. Every college wants you but more importantly wants you to complete the course of study. There is one college that will suit your needs..

College life will present many challenges. Students who are happy with their course choices will cope better with these challenges. Making the most of the college experience starts with finding what suits you best.

If you want to hit the ground running, check out ‘Cracking the College Code’ which is written from the third level perspective with lots of practical tips for students in how to make a successful transition. Described by the President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors as the ‘must have’ essential guide for all students, parents and guardians - the book that should be in every Leaving Cert student’s bag”. It is endorsed by third level institutions, Provost of TCD, Minister for Education and Skills, President of the institute of Guidance Counsellors, National Parents Council post primary, School Principals, teachers, parents and students.

Catherine O'Connor, Trinity College Dublin, works as an Education Consultant and is Author of 'Cracking the College Code', a practical guide to making the most of the first year college experience. 

Published by CJ Fallon Ltd., and available at all bookshops for €12.99 and online at (A discounted price is available to parents associations and schools with CJ Fallon).

Information talks for parent and student groups are also available nationwide: email

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