CAO 2020: How to decide if a college is a good match

CAO 2020: How to decide if a college is a good match

With the CAO deadline looming, choosing the right course really is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

While finding the right course is important, so is finding the right college which is a good fit for the student’s personality and lifestyle. A college’s position on the international university rankings doesn’t mean that it’s the best fit for someone. There are a number of factors to take into consideration.

The first consideration is the location. How close to home is it? Is there a reason to stay at home, or very close by? Looking further afield, what supports and opportunities open up apart from learning to cook and do laundry?

The size and feel of the campus can impact on a student’s wellbeing. Ideally a student should visit the campus to get a sense of it. Do they feel at home mixing with lots of students with different interests, or would a smaller student community with similar interests be more suitable?

Research living costs

Cost is an important consideration as it affects the whole family. Depending on what source you look at, for a student living at home, the annual cost can range from €4,611 to €6,750. For a student living away from home, the cost jumps to €8,830 to €11,829 per annum.

Thoroughly research costs and financial aid available (susi.ie). Sources used are Zurich Ireland’s 2019 study and the annual DIT cost of living guide 2018/2019.

Grants are not the only avenue for financial aid. There is also a broad range of scholarships available.

A comprehensive list of scholarships can be found on the careersportal website.

Subjects taught on the course can be the making or breaking of a college career. Third-level institutions are being encouraged to keep first year subjects broad, but they do need to specialise eventually. If you like maths in school and maths is part of the course curriculum, great.

However, if you hate maths and it forms a considerable part of the course you are applying for, perhaps it’s better to choose something else unless you are really focussed and prepared to work extremely hard at it. It i s important to look at the subjects taught in every year of the course, not just first year, to avoid any nasty surprises.

In the highly competitive US third-level arena, the US College Board advises students not to get stuck on things like the reputation, rank or selectivity of a particular college. They advise that what’s more valuable is how a college’s academic style fits the student.

They outline some useful questions.

  • Do I learn best when I’m academically comfortable/challenged?
  • Do I prefer to be part of small group discussions or listen to lectures?
  • How much interaction do I want with my professors?
  • What balance am I looking for between studying and my social life?
  • Do I want to choose most of my classes myself or do I prefer more structure?

uscollegeboard.org

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