‘Slingshot’ to give secondary students a taste of third level

Past participants of the Student Slingshot Academy

Too many students drop out of third-level education because they do not fully understand the course or institution they have applied to, according to the founder of an initiative which aims to tackle the problem.

Patrick Guiney, a UCD graduate, set up the Student Slingshot Academy in 2014 in an attempt to educate second level students about college and the various course options available.

“One in six people drop out of college,” he said. “The National Teaching and Learning Fourm released a research paper a few weeks ago and cited not knowing your course and your institution as the single biggest factors for dropping out.

“What we’re trying to do essentially is give students, secondary level students, a better idea of what they can go on to do in third level.”

After a number of successful events earlier this year, where third-level students and expert speakers gave talks to, and held workshops with, Transition Year students, more events for the coming academic year have been announced.

This time around, there are three times as many places available, the events are free, and the academy is open to anyone aged between 15- and 19-years-old.

“The feedback is very, very good,” said Mr Guiney. “We’ve learned three things so far — parents and teachers don’t want the events on the weekends, they want it on the week days, they would prefer the events were free and they want them focussed on particular areas.

“From talking to parents we found the areas they want us to focus on are ones with a science or technology background, entrepreneurship, and personal development. So we’ve kind of tried to cover everything the parents and teachers wanted.”

Each day-long academy will cater for 180 students from four different schools.

“There will be third level students giving talks in science, technology, engineering, and maths and then one final one from a well known person to give a personal development story, like a life talk,” said Patrick.

“There will be a mixture of workshops and presentations and panel discussions and then, after that, if a student particularly enjoyed something a speaker touched on they can keep in touch with them. We can also secure college visits to a particular campus or course they were interested in or secure placement with a particular company. We did that with 10 students last year and we’re aiming for about 150 this year.”

Past participants of the Student Slingshot Academy
Past participants of the Student Slingshot Academy

While the events to date have all been held in Dublin, Mr Guiney hopes to roll the initiative out nationwide and is looking to hold one in Galway in the coming months.

“I want to do Galway in January, ideally, so that we could open up in the west so it’s not just a Dublin event,” he said.

“Hopefully if we keep up with our partners and with the Department of Education we’ll be able to get this funded and be able to roll it out across the country.”

The Student Slingshot Academy is supported by Spunout, the Irish Second Level Students’ Union, the Institute of Guidance Counsellors Ireland and The National Youth Council of Ireland, among others.

The next Student Slingshot event will be held on October 22. Parents and teachers interested in sending pupils can register their interest via www.slingshot.ie.

Further events will be held on November 26, January 11, and February 21, while a final event is being organised for March.


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