Ask Brian: I’m not so sure about my college course. Should I quit?

The first month of college can be challenging for anyone starting third-level

It’s best not to make any rash decisions. Photograph: iStock

It’s best not to make any rash decisions. Photograph: iStock


My daughter secured her third choice on her CAO list and has paid her €3,000 registration charge. It is early days, but she’s not so sure about the course. In the meantime, she’s hopeful of getting an upgrade, having appealed two of her Leaving Cert subjects. This would be enough to secure her first or second choice course. What would you advise her to do?

Firstly, there’s no certainty she will get an upgrade when the results of reviewed scripts are revealed in mid-October. Each year only one in five such scripts is upgraded.

Secondly, starting into college life is quite a daunting task. It requires a sudden movement from the supportive environment of a second-level school to the isolation of self-directed learning, which is required in college. This first month or so can be quite disorienting and she should not make any sudden decisions.

I would advise you to get a definitive date in writing from the registration office of her college by which she can withdraw from her current course without incurring any financial penalties.

After that date her name will be submitted by the college to the Higher Education Authority as being a registered student on her degree programme, and the college will receive half of the funding for her first year.

If she is still a registered student in February 2019, the college will repeat the exercise and receive the remaining 50 per cent.

Her best bet, then, is to give her total commitment to her current course. Encourage her to fully engage in college life, such as joining clubs and societies, which will give her a real feel for what the next three to four years might offer.

If, in the week prior to the college submitting her name to the HEA, she is still strongly of the view that this is not the course for her, I would advise her to formally withdraw from the programme by writing to the registrar.

By doing this, she will receive back most of the €3,000 registration charge.

If she doesn’t and decides to drop out at the end of the academic year, she will have to pay an additional charge of €4,000-plus next year if she chooses a new course in 2019.

This is because the HEA only funds each student once for each year of an undergraduate degree programme.

If your daughter does receive an upgrade in October, which brings her CAO points total above the minimum published points of either of her top two course choices, she will receive a new offer from the CAO.

She can then choose to accept it and try to catch up on this term’s work or accept the place, or defer starting it until September 2019.

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