Ask Brian: Can my daughter defer to mull over her choice of college course?
It is too late to defer, but taking a year out to consider other options is a good idea
Many students and parents choose courses based on the CAO points capacity of the student, the perceived attractiveness of the career itself, where their friends are going, and a range of other factors
QUESTION: My daughter got 610 points in her Leaving Cert in 2015 and secured her first choice of pharmacy at Trinity College Dublin. However, she did not enjoy the course and chose not to proceed to second year. I completed another CAO application for her in January and, after talking to a career guidance person, she put law and business at Trinity as her first choice. She secured a place, but is beginning to question whether she is doing the right course.
My husband has advised her to take a year out if she is not sure. What should she do?
ANSWER: Your question encapsulates many of the challenges facing students in choosing a college course. It is a complex process. Unfortunately, many students and parents choose courses based on the CAO points capacity of the student, the perceived attractiveness of the career itself, where their friends are going, and a range of other factors.
When students settle into the day-to-day reality of attending lectures and preparing papers for tutorials , the reality of what studying a course for five to six years involves becomes very clear.
In deciding what to do, the website careersportal.ie is a helpful place to view video clips of people in various professions talking about the reality of their working lives. Qualifax.ie is useful too, with details of the course content of every CAO course available to explore.
The Irish Times Higher Options event, in the RDS on September 14th-16th, enables students to speak directly with representatives from all the main Irish universities and colleges, as well as many from the UK, Europe and further afield.
In your situation I would strongly advise your daughter to simply step away from college for a year at this stage, and take time out to explore what she wants to commit to. The option of deferring her place was only available in the days immediately following her CAO offer on August 22nd. With 610 points, she will have no difficulty in securing a place in whichever course she chooses when she eventually decides on the correct option.
Prior to informing Trinity that she is pulling back from her law and business option, I would advise her to chat with its careers advisory office.
In your question, you also mentioned that you completed a CAO application for her earlier in the year. As a loving and concerned parent, you probably felt you were doing the right thing when you saw how unhappy she was. Might I suggest that you step back now, and give your daughter the space and time over the coming months to reflect on the way forward?
She might like to get a part-time job to help fund the additional cost you are going to have to incur once she re-enters the CAO process. Alternatively, she might like to volunteer this year for some charity work in Ireland or abroad. This process of itself will help give her perspective on herself, and help her explore her genuine interests and aptitudes.