Preparation is the key to avoid dropping out
Choose carefully as the wrong choice can lead to a U-turn on the journey
Mark Geiran: dropped out
Caitriona Murphy: changed course
According to a Higher Education Authority study of progression rates in 2007/2008, an average of nine per cent of students did not progress to second year
Filling out the CAO form can be daunting for students because it feels like they’re choosing what they must do for the rest of their lives. UCC student union president, Eoghan Healy, advises that when choosing a course, it’s more important to choose one you’ll enjoy instead of trying to guess what is the best one for a job.
“You’ll find with the vast majority of college courses that the skills you learn can apply to any profession,” he says. “The CEO of Heineken has a degree in physics, Graham Norton studied Greek and Celtic civilisation and Des Bishop studied history.” UCD also emphasises the importance of picking a degree based on what you like rather than trying to predict what you’ll get based on your points, or what will be the easiest sector to get a job in.
It’s difficult to make these decisions in the middle of your Leaving Certificate year, and plenty of students make it to college before they realise they’ve made the wrong decision.
According to a Higher Education Authority study of progression rates in 2007/2008, an average of nine per cent of students did not progress to second year. This included students who were repeating. Universities reported a dropout rate between approximately one and three per cent in the first semester, with the dropout peak occurring for most colleges around October and November.
While personal and financial reasons play a role and often cannot be helped, most universities cited the wrong degree choice, finding the course too difficult and unrealistic expectations as the main reasons for dropout rates, which they say is often down to a lack of research on the course.
Frank Costello, head of admissions and enrolment planning at DIT, says that 10 per cent of students who drop out picked the wrong course, with another 15 per cent struggling with the workload or the learning style of university life. He says for those who are unsure, there are general programmes, such as common entry science or arts, that let students experience a broader range of subjects before specialising.
Many students choose the degree they think they want without fully researching the course content and the classes involved.
Students can also let CAO points dictate their list, putting the courses that require the highest points at the top. It may not be the one you want but may be the one you get if you do better than you expected in your exams.
Students who made their choices in February may have changed their minds completely about what they want to study.
For some, they are as sure as they were then, which might not be very sure at all. During change of mind, it’s important for all students to re-evaluate their choices and make sure they are the right ones.