Slingshot Academy helps students with course selection

Patrick Guiney set up charity to give students first-hand insight into Stem courses

After coming to close to dropping out of college, Patrick Guiney went on to set up a charity to support students heading to third-level education. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

After coming to close to dropping out of college, Patrick Guiney went on to set up a charity to support students heading to third-level education. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 
Patrick Guiney

“Looking back, I didn’t enjoy those first four or five months,” he said. “The sheer size of some of the classes was daunting ... It felt a bit impersonal.”

The variety of subjects took him by surprise, while the fact that he was battling traffic each day – travelling from Dublin’s northside to the UCD campus Belfield – seemed to add to the hassle.

“I hadn’t really done my research. You only learn so much from an open day or a website, but I should really have spoken to students who were studying the course or who’d been through it.”

In the end, he persevered and went on to complete a postgraduate degree at UCD’s Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

The experience prompted him to set up a charity after he left college to help students make the right choice when it comes to going to college.

The Slingshot Academy gives 15- to 19-year-olds the chance to meet and chat first-hand with college students studying in areas such as science, technology, engineering and maths.

“There isn’t really a solid knowledge bridge from second to third level. That’s especially true if you don’t have an older brother or sister at college,” he said.

As a result, he says, people often end up choosing courses for a variety of reasons – such as prestige or job availability – without fully researching whether they are really suited to the subject area.

“A lot of people end up in courses like, say, computer science because they’re told there are great job and opportunities. But they’re not prepared for the demands of the course, or they struggle with the maths component.”

Through a mentoring and support programme in different parts of the country, college students explain their own journey through the education system to young applicants.

A big focus of the the academy’s work, he says, is providing support to students from disadvantaged areas who are less likely to have family members at third level. In addition, there is a focus on alternatives to higher education for those who may struggle with learning in a classroom.

For further information, visit: www.slingshot.ie