Higher Options 2021: Preparation is key

Picking a college is a big decision – one of the more important you’ll ever make

Preparation is key. You will need to ask many questions when making your college choice. Photograph: iStock

Preparation is key. You will need to ask many questions when making your college choice. Photograph: iStock


Why attend Higher Options?
It’s a great opportunity to engage with and get information from people across the education sector and to hear talks on careers and courses that interest you as well as other career areas you may have not considered.

What makes the digital platform different?
All exhibitors will be able to answer questions in group chats and one-to-one discussions. They will also be able to advise you what material to gather from their stand for further information. The chat function will appear in every booth you visit. There will also be live Q&A sessions after each talk where any questions you may have can be answered in real time.

It’s a great opportunity to add your own personal copies of brochures/prospectuses of the colleges you are interested in to your digital backpack. You can download these to your device for further research at home or at school.

Preparing for Higher Options

1. Research your future options
It’s definitely a good idea to spend some time researching your future options before attending the event. This means you’ll be able to really benefit from the knowledge of the college representatives and advisers on the day.

2. Prepare some questions
As part of your research, write down a few questions or issues you’d like to discuss. These might be very specific, or simply a checklist of topics, such as course structure, maths level requirements (if any), specific entry requirements, career opportunities, etc. Don’t make this too long, or you’ll never get through it; aim for no more than five key points, focusing on the issues most important to you.

3. Check the schedule beforehand
A few days before the event, check the final schedule for the day at higheroptions.vfairs.com. Write down the start times of any talks you definitely want to attend, as well as any you’re at least partly interested in. On-screen alerts will appear to remind you when talks start but it is a good idea to have a plan. You can watch recordings of talks afterwards.

4. Keep an open mind
While it is useful to be prepared and have a clear focus, try to balance this out by also remaining open to new study options and possibilities. You might find your ideal course exists in a form you didn’t previously know about.

5. Keep an eye on the time
Make sure you don’t get too caught up in one conversation and miss out on other opportunities. Know the start time of the talks you would like to attend. There will be on screen announcements before a talk is about to start. Be sure to look out for these!

6. Make notes
Make a note of anything you want to follow up on later. You might think you’ll remember, but there will be a lot to take in.

7. Your virtual rucksack
Don’t forgot to add the prospectuses and information packs to your virtual rucksack from the stands you visit. You can research these later at home or at school from any device. Of course it doesn’t all end when the exhibition finishes – you’ve then got the task of sorting through all the information you collected, following up any interesting opportunities, and reaching that final decision.

Issues other than course choice to find answers to:

Generally it’s the most expensive part of going to college for those who cannot live at home. If you have identified some colleges that are strong possibilities for you then find out:

• Is there university/college-owned accommodation and the cost;

• How do you apply for it?

• Can you see the accommodation when you go to visit on an open day?

• What about accommodation outside the college, is there help finding it?

Remember you will have to pay for food, electricity, gas, heating, telephone, wifi, etc. Ask when accommodation bookings start; for some colleges it is months ahead of CAO offers! Colleges differ in their approach to this, so don’t get caught out.

If you are living at home and hope to commute to college, what are the transport options available, public or private? If driving to the college, what about car parking – availability and cost.

Are there any scholarships available in the college? These could be academic, sporting, performance or community based. If interested find out when should you apply. Are there points awarded for them?

Social life
You will be in the place for at least three years and the friends you make will likely be with you for life, so, apart from bars, cafes and nightclubs (which are usually in abundance anyway), what clubs/societies are available? What entertainment venues – theatres, cinema, etc – are close by? Is the college’s social life based in a town/city or within the campus?

Sports facilities
Sports provision is important for many. Find out what sports are available in the college, how many teams there are and what the facilities are like. Is there a gym available, swimming pool, pitches, competitions, etc.

Student support
What sort of support does the college offer?

• Medical – is there an on-campus doctor/nurse?

• Mental health – is there a counselling service?

• Academic – is there a mentor system? Maths support?

• Disability – if I have a specific learning difficulty or disability what support will be available?

Higher Options is a great opportunity to find out what is really being offered by a third-level college over and above what is written in the prospectus and on the website
Higher Options is a great opportunity to find out what is really being offered by a third-level college over and above what is written in the prospectus and on the website

What universities will be in attendance?

TU Dublin Information Desk

TU Dublin - Architecture & Built Environment

TU Dublin - Engineering

TU Dublin - Art, Design, Media, Music & Drama

TU Dublin - Computing, IT, Data & Maths

TU Dublin - Science

TU Dublin - Culinary, Hospitality, Tourism, Sport & Leisure

TU Dublin - Business, Languages & Law

American College Dublin

St Angela’s College, Sligo

Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest, Athlone Campus

BIMM Institute

Carlow College, St Patrick’s

Dublin Business School

Dublin City University

Griffith College

Institute of Art, Design + Technology (IADT)

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

IT Sligo

Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT)

The Institute of Physics

The Lir Academy National Academy of Dramatic Art

Marino Institute of Education

Maynooth University

Munster Technological University

National College of Ireland


NUI Galway

Queen’s University Belfast, The School of Pharmacy

RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences

Shannon College of Hotel Management

St Patrick’s Pontifical University Maynooth

Trinity College Dublin

Ulster University

University College Cork

University of Limerick

Institute of Technology Carlow

Waterford Institute of Technology

UCD Information Desk

UCD Agriculture, Food & Nutrition & Veterinary Medicine

UCD Arts & Humanities

UCD Business

UCD Engineering & Architecture

UCD Health Sciences

UCD Science, Computer Science, Actuarial & Financial Studies

UCD Social Sciences & Law

UCD BSc Sustainability

Aberystwyth University

CAFRE, College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise

Campus France Ireland

Cardiff University

The Chartered Institute of Building

City of Dublin ETB

DDLETB, Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board

Education and Training Boards Ireland


This is FET, Generation Apprenticeship

Glasgow Caledonian University

Hanze University of Applied Sciences

Veterinary University, Hungary

Liverpool John Moores University

Logistics Associate Apprenticeship

Maastricht University

MedEntry HPAT Prep

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI)

Civil & Public Service, Publicjobs.ie

SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College

Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI)

University of Cambridge

The University of Essex

NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences

University College London

University of Sunderland

EducationUSA in Ireland

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).