Ask Brian: I still can’t decide what course to choose. What should I do?

Don’t rush into a course which doesn’t excite you – there is plenty of time to decide

Focus on your exams for now – career choices can wait until the end of June. Photograph: iStock

Focus on your exams for now – career choices can wait until the end of June. Photograph: iStock


I’m doing the Leaving next month and am still unsure what to apply for in college. Nothing seems to really grab me. Would it be a mistake to do a course simply to get a degree for an area that I might not end up in?

Drifting from school into a course you have no real interest in can be a recipe for disaster. Thousands of school-leavers follow this route every year and drop out as autumn turns to winter, when the prospect of getting out of bed to attend lectures, tutorials and practicals becomes increasingly more difficult.

Those who manage to trundle on through their degree programme end up with an indifferent grade which takes them nowhere and leaves them – or their parents – servicing a large debt while working in temporary jobs.

What should you do? If you’re anxious about what to do in the run-up to the exams, do nothing.

In the days and weeks ahead, focus exclusively on maximising your grades in each subject. You are highly unlikely to re-sit the exams (very few students take this route anymore), so get the most out of your opportunity and move on.

When you finish your final exam paper in June, you will be amazed how different the world will look the following morning.

If you have applied to the CAO, you have at least a week to reflect on possible course choices. Put as much effort into that process as you do into your exams. Read in detail the entire course content of any programmes you are considering on websites ( is a good starting point).

Visit faculties in colleges and talk to lecturers about their programmes. If your school guidance counsellor is still available to meet or talk to you over the phone, explore your options based on your aptitudes, interests etc.

I use a test called Centigrade with my students ( It identifies your top course/careers areas of interest, and which colleges in Ireland (and abroad) offer these programmes.

The CAO’s change-of-mind deadline is July 1st. If you are still unsure of what area you want to pursue, it’s worth looking at the comprehensive range of programmes offered in your local further education college.

They are a wonderful way of exploring whether you have a genuine interest in an area of study.

But if you are still unsure in August, and you receive a course offer which does not excite or energise you, embark on a year of self-discovery. Get a job, learn what it takes to cover your own living costs, including bed and board. It will be a sobering experience.

Your life’s journey will have many twists and turns in the next few years. In time, it will reveal your inner passion. When that happens, you will have no difficulty in identifying and successfully progressing through the training/study required to realising your career aspirations. Go slowly, wait for clarity and enjoy the journey.