There is so much information available about colleges and the courses they teach that telling the difference between courses, which on the face of it look the same, can sometimes be a challenge.
It is always worthwhile for prospective students to take some time to do preparatory work in advance of attending open days or The Irish Times Higher Options expo.
Firstly, it is worth considering what type of college is best suited to you. Chat with your career-guidance counsellor or send them an email. Talk to parents and other third-level students if you can. Ask them what they think.
Secondly, write down a list of questions. As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to ask the same questions during each open day or at each “stall” to get as measured an understanding of each institution as is possible. You should try to tailor your questions to suit your interests and needs.
Ask about the course content. What are the academic requirements? Will the course make graduates more employable? What areas are covered in the course and how is it assessed? How will lectures be delivered and does the course feature one-on-one or group supervision?
Thirdly, prospective students should not forget the practical questions. While answers to all of those questions may not be forthcoming yet, thanks to Covid-19, they are still worth asking.
Ask about on-campus facilities. Does it have high-quality sports facilities? What are the accommodation options? How much does university accommodation cost? Are rooms located close to campus?
If students return to campus this academic year, will the college provide flexible renting options for those who wish to stay for a couple of days in the event of their lectures being grouped together? How much should students budget for college accommodation?
Fourthly, students with particular needs should seek relevant information. For example, are you in any way adversely affected by distance learning? Do you have special audiovisual requirements? Do you have the right equipment to work remotely and do you have access to a broadband connection? Will the college in question offer help in the event that you do not have access to the correct equipment?
Again, in the event of a return to campus, is the campus accessible? Is it wheelchair-friendly? Does it have transition and support programmes in place?