Take the virtual route: Open days and Higher Options

Online events give students a taste of the lifestyle and study opportunities on offer

Late autumn is traditionally a time when colleges and universities throw open their doors to prospective third-level students as they start the process of gathering information about college courses and the campus experience.

While the coronavirus continues to disrupt life around us, the latest crop of sixth-year secondary school students have already turned their attention to next year’s CAO as they edge towards making that all-important decision: what course they will study once they get past the Leaving Cert?

Of course the pandemic has seen to it that open days and Higher Options, Ireland’s main information-gathering opportunity for secondary school students, cannot be held in their traditional format this year. University campuses have been closed down and the public cannot gather in any significant numbers for the foreseeable future.

Yet third-level institutions are still as invested in attracting prospective students as they were before the virus hit and they have invested heavily in virtual platforms which allow prospective students to get a taste of the lifestyle and study opportunities on offer.


Virtual open days offer 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.

Colleges are generally holding virtual events on different days and students should plan to allocate time over the coming weeks to make sure they don’t miss out on any of them.

Most institutions will feature live presentations from academics and Q&A sessions and live chats with current students as part of their virtual open day.

Even if you miss an open day, most institutions will keep the material online for you to review at a later point. While that may be the case, every situation is unique and students are advised to prepare their own questions – whether they relate to college courses or information about entry routes.

Higher Options

Another option of course is Higher Options. On November 4th and 5th from 1pm to 6pm each day, The Irish Times will bring Ireland’s top universities under the one digital roof at this year’s expo.

Students will be able to visit stands and meet representatives from multiple universities based in Ireland, the UK and from across the European Union.

They will be able to gather information and ask the same 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.

Guest speakers will include Brian Mooney, Eileen Keleghan of the CAO, Damien Dempsey, Aoife Moore, Lory Kehoe and Anne Kiely. They will speak on a range of topics from how to map a career in science to the future of business.

So how do you enrol?

Bookings for attendees and exhibitors are open from now until Monday, November 2nd.

Go to: higheroptions.vfairs.com

Check: Your email for confirmation.

On the day: Click on your unique link to get access.

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Iriseoir agus Eagarthóir Gaeilge An Irish Times. Éanna Ó Caollaí is The Irish Times' Irish Language Editor, editor of The Irish Times Student Hub, and Education Supplements editor.