Late autumn marks the beginning of the journey towards third-level education for many Leaving Cert students as they face a bewildering array of choices before making a decision about what to do once they finish school.
As society continues to open up following a tough 18 months of coronavirus restrictions, the latest crop of sixth-year secondary school students have already turned their attention to next year’s CAO process as they edge towards making that all-important decision: what course they will study once they get past the Leaving Cert?
Autumn is also the time of year when colleges and universities throw open their doors on designated “Open Days” when prospective third-level students can visit for a taste of the campus experience.
The first stop along this journey for many will be The Irish Times' Higher Options event, which brings together college representatives and students curious for information about what lies ahead.
Of course the pandemic has seen to it that Higher Options, Ireland’s main information-gathering opportunity for secondary school students, will be held online this year.
On October 13th and 14th from 12pm to 6pm each day, The Irish Times will bring Ireland’s top universities under one digital roof for the 2021 Higher Options expo.
Whether they use smartphones, laptops, tablets or desktop computers, students will be able to visit virtual stands and meet representatives remotely from multiple universities based in Ireland, the UK and from across the European Union.
They will be able to gather information and ask questions about courses and college life as well as the services of Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi), Ireland's national awarding authority for higher and further education grants.
A full programme of career talks will also give students the opportunity to find out about different areas of study, how to choose a course that fits their interests and studying abroad
The expo will feature talks on a range of topics, among which will feature panel discussions on the CAO process, careers in creative media, gairmeacha le gaeilge, careers in tech, law, biology and medical science .
This year’s format gives prospective students an opportunity to engage from home (or anywhere in the world, for that matter) as they try to visualise what their lives would look like next autumn.
Janet Stafford, manager of Higher Options, says Higher Options is a "must attend" event for students this year due to the breadth of information available in the one place.
"Students can find out about studying pharmacy in Queens, economics in Maastricht, law in Trinity or construction and engineering in Cavan. The programme of career and information talks covers such a range of career areas. Students should be prepared to gather a lot of information," she said.
Material will be kept online for 30 days after the event so you can review it at a later date. It is worth mentioning that every situation is unique and students planning to attend this year’s digital Higher Options should take the time to think and to prepare their own questions in advance – no matter whether they relate to college courses or information about entry routes.
A full programme of career talks will also give students the opportunity to find out about different areas of study, how to choose a course that fits their interests and studying abroad.
What advice does Stafford have for students who are planning to attend?
“’I would advise students to look at the opportunities to reserve slots to chat with individual college representatives.
“Look at the talks timetable and attend those too. The information is there to access after the event too. Come with an open mind and explore the possibilities for further and higher level studies and training,” she said.
Guest speakers at Higher Options 2021 will include career guidance expert Brian Mooney, Eileen Keleghan, communications officer for the Central Applications Office (CAO); barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher; chief state pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan; political correspondent for the Irish Examiner Aoife Moore; activist and sports journalist for The Irish Times Joanne O'Riordan; Cartoon Saloon's head of animation Fabian Erlinghäuser and many more.
How do you enrol?
Bookings for attendees and exhibitors are open.
Go to: higheroptions.vfairs.com
Check: Your email for confirmation.
On the day: Click on your unique link to get access.