Choosing a course

Tips for Choosing a 3rd Level Course

1. Self-Assessment

Before you begin researching 3rd level courses, it is important to understand yourself first.  In other words;

  1. What type of person are you…what are your personal qualities, what do you love doing and what do you prefer to avoid?
  2. What skills do you have and what are your strengths?
  3. What are your hobbies and interests?
  4. What type of learner are you, e.g. do you learn by doing or can you easily take in information from books?


2. Research your course

It is important to thoroughly research the course(s) in which you are interested.  

For courses in Ireland search through the

Location is a major factor when choosing a course.  Are you in a position to move locations or commute and have you thought about the cost of this?

Be clear on the CAO application processes for your chosen course, i.e. how do you apply and when are the deadlines?


3. Look at your student finance options 

Finance is a big factor to consider when applying to return to education. Factor in the cost of returning to college- accommodation, transport, childcare, cost of living and perhaps giving up a job in order to return to college.

Be realistic and do plenty of research in advance. Look up the variour student finance options available to you-  is a great website with lots of resources for students to consider.

Always have a plan B in case your finance option doesn't work out. 


4. Understand the entry requirements for the course

  • What are the basic admission requirements for the course?
  • Do you need to have previously studied specific subjects for entry to the course?
  • Do you need to make additional submissions (e.g. a portfolio) or complete an interview (e.g. in Music) as part of the entry requirements?

Look at the subjects or modules for each year of the course, not just 1st year- 

You need to make sure that your expectations and the actual reality of the course are in line with each other.  The objective is to enjoy the course throughout your time in college. 

Also consider the following when you are researching the courses:

  • Will there be work placement during the course?
  • Will you need to pick a specialism as the course progresses, e.g. after first or second year?

During your research contact the relevant college or university department with specific questions about the course.  Request a meeting or a tour of the department to ensure you are fully informed about the course.

Talk to a Guidance Counsellor in your current Further Education College.

It is strongly advisable to have a number of choices on you CAO application form.  If you did not receive your first choice what would you like to do next?  Always have a back-up plan with other course choices.