New research has found that students who got lower points in their Leaving Cert are most likely to drop out of third level education.
The study by the Higher Education Authority also found a gender gap, in terms of students progression into second year.
89% of female students continued their courses, compared to 83% of males.
Those who attended fee paying schools were also more likely to stay on in college.
Construction-related courses had the worst retention record with nearly a quarter dropping out.
Graham Love from the HEA says better careers guidance could be part of the solution.
He said: "I think career choice is something that can be improved on with better career guidance.
"We certainly see males with very high levels of not progressing, some of those construction and IT courses particularly at level six and seven.
"Perhaps some of these students would be better going through the newly approved emerging apprentice system."
The college drop out rate for students who went to DEIS Schools in disadvantaged areas is almost double that for those who went to fee-paying schools.
The finding is contained in research by the Higher Education Authority.
It shows that overall, 86% of Irish college students progress on to second year - a slight increase on previous figures.
The students most likely not to progress are male students studying computer science, construction or engineering.
Graham Love from the HEA says many students need extra supports to stay in college.
He said: "There's no doubt that the environment in school is much closer and more supportive.
"When one moves into third level, a greater level of independence is required - that is where we see some loss.
"We know that our third level institutions are investing in a number of measures to support these students - whether that is additional maths courses or interventions when people are identified as not attending lectures."