I’m in my 30s and want to go to college. What are my options?

Ask Brian: Access to education is lifelong and there are lots of ways to re-engage

Colleges and universities  have access programmes for people like yourself who wish to explore their educational goals. Photograph: iStock

Colleges and universities have access programmes for people like yourself who wish to explore their educational goals. Photograph: iStock

 

I never went to college after school. I found it hard to engage and went straight into a job. I’m in my 30s now. While I have a good job in Galway, I regret that I didn’t give higher education a go. What options do I have at this stage in my life?

Access to education is lifelong and there are a range of ways in which you could re-engage. I have worked with people over the years who dropped out of education and are now at PhD level. Only you can set a limit to your potential.

Your local Education and Training Board (ETB) offers a wide range of full-time and part-time courses that would enable you to get accustomed to engaging with education again.

Colleges and universities also have access programmes for people like yourself who wish to explore their educational goals.

Your local university, NUI Galway, has an access programme which provides aspiring students with the opportunity to prepare – personally and academically – for an undergraduate course of full-time study and of at least three years’ duration at the university.

It is designed specifically as an alternative admission route for people who, for a variety of reasons, did not reach their educational potential and do not have the necessary conventional educational requirement to progress to third level.

The access courses introduce students to the methods of study, writing and research required for successful participation in higher education, and prepares and supports them to make informed choices about further study.

This includes a focus on study skills, applied writing, IT and educational guidance.

The academic options on offer are, essentially, foundational subjects introducing humanities/ science/business to undergraduate university. It delivers four science subjects and seven humanities subjects, ranging across sciences, economics, maths, English, history and more.

The aim of the course is to enable students to acquire the skills, knowledge and confidence to compete on an equal footing with those students who enter the university through the CAO points system.

There are programmes running at three access centres: Galway (campus at NUI Galway); Ballinasloe; Sligo (St Angela’s College, Lough Gill) as well as outreach bi-lingual programme through An Cheathrú Rua.

Students attend some lectures on campus to gain valuable campus experience before undertaking a full-time undergraduate degree, but home study, or self-directed study, is an integral part of the course.

NUI Galway’s access course runs for 21 weeks, either full-time or part-time, during the academic year – normally September-May – and students who complete it receive a diploma in foundation studies. They are also eligible to apply for direct entry (via the CAO) to full-time university undergraduate degree courses.

Applications for places on this year’s access course for school leavers is now open online (nuigalway.ie/access/school-leavers/).

The deadline for applications for the current year is this coming Friday, September 17th, 2021.