How To Make The Most Out Of The Higher Options Fair

With the Higher Education Fair date looming this week we have some tips to get you prepared for the day. All the essential question you need to ask, how to organize your time, which expos to go to, it’s all in this blog.

“What courses are there for the areas that I am interested in?”

Start your conversation with the representative with this question as they will be able to point you in the direction of courses that are compactible with your interests and consequently reduce your dilemma by excluding those you have no interest in, you can also knock off your list the schools that don’t offer the courses of your interests. For example, if you are not interested in medicine, you can knock off all the schools that offer solely medical courses narrowing your search.

‘’What do I need to achieve in order to get into the courses that interest me?’’

Next on your list is finding out the entry requirements. You can even create a spreadsheet with the courses, the institution names and all the entry requirements to make things easier. Ranking them by order of preference will give you practice for when you are filling out your CAO form. Sites like as CareersPortal and Qualifax are excellent sources of information on entry requirements for courses, points trends from each year and the modules you can take each term/year.

‘’Is there on-site student accommodation, when should I start looking/applying?’’

On-campus residence is a great option for students moving away from home for the first time, as it will give you access to all the top resources on campus while connecting you to other first year students. Find out if the college has any services available for those looking to apply for private housing. For example, NUIG has a site similar to called StudentPad which is a great place to search for private accommodation. Many student residences open their applications early in the new year around January/February and close around March. Some are on a first come first served basis others are on a lottery basis.

However, don’t fret if you don’t get in by then as many students accept courses in other cities and forgo their accommodation place so put your name down on the waiting list early on as there is a high chance you will get in. If it is late summer and you still have no accommodation apply for a hostel for the time being, look through Facebook house hunting groups or recently many students have resorted to websites such as Twitter to look for housing whatever you decide make sure to watch out for scams and never send on a deposit if you haven’t seen the accommodation.

‘’Is there any scholarships or financial aid opportunities?’’

Most student in Ireland apply to the main student grant body SUSI. Even if you think you won’t be eligible apply anyway as the conditions change each year and occasionally special accommodations are made. Applications usually open around April so after you apply for accommodation look into creating your SUSI application to give yourself enough time to source all the documents you will need.

HEAR and DARE are also popular schemes. HEAR offers students from disadvantaged backgrounds place on courses on reduced points and gives student extra support throughout their college career. DARE offers reduced points places to those who, as a result of having a disability, have experienced additional educational challenges in second level education.

 If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation during your college year, make sure to apply for the student financial fund which is there to aid students in times of financial hardships. If you can’t afford a new laptop which many students struggle with as it is a costly purchase, ask the college rep if they have schemes such as the laptop loan scheme.

Majority of colleges provide scholarships for achievements such as excellent grades, sports or music, again CareersPortal is an excellent source for compiling all the scholarships offered by each institution. Some institutions give monetary scholarships for excellent results in college exams, or some companies sponsor students for achieving excellent results for a particular subject for example UCC student who achieves at Least a 2H.1 result in their first sitting of their 2nd year BSc Accounting exams are eligible to apply for a KPGM bursary worth €1,500 and a 6-month work placement worth €10,000.

‘’What are the class sizes like, is there a lot of one-on-one contact with the teacher?’’

Asking about the average yearly intake into a course you will get an idea of the class sizes, however, don’t fret if you see average intake of over 200 students for a particular course as each year the classes get smaller as everyone chooses their specification and only take the classes they need to get into their career. In first year, the subjects usually cover the basics however there are tutorials/seminars and labs offered which are very intimate in size of around 20 or less students so you can ask all the questions you need and get to know your classmates more easily.

‘’What will be my career prospects after I graduate from my course?’’

This is a very important question to ask during the Higher Options Career Fair as university is there to equip you with the skills you need to succeed in your career and while many careers require generic skills others such as Computer Science require a knowledge of a distinct skill of programming language such as Python which without which you have minimal chances of getting into. On the other hand, companies like AY don’t look solely for business and finance applicants but for those who have the core transferable skills of problem solving, creative thinking and communication. Ask about the firms and employers the university has connections with. If you go to a college that has great partnership with a firm you really want to work for you have a higher chance of getting an internship there leading to a possible future career.


Some other tips..

  •  If you are still deciding between two or three career choices go to a talk in one or two of them, regardless of which college as it will give you an overall idea of the syllabus and how the career of that person looks like, and you will be able to knock off the ones you don’t see yourself in. 

  •   If you are thinking of going abroad for college the first thing you should do is make a list of all the entry requirements and the fees. Thankfully most European colleges have lower admission requirement than Irish and English universities and countries like Germany have tuition free education. UNICAS is a great source of information on your study abroad prospects so make sure to chat with the UNICAS representative during the fair as deciding to study abroad can be a big decision and you want to be sure you’re making the right one. Ask about your future in Ireland after your graduation abroad. Will your degree be transferable, or will you need extra/ different qualifications? What are the key dates for applying?

  •   With the competition in the higher education market becoming oversaturated going for an apprenticeship might be a smart choice for some students. The apprenticeship market is growing with the times and there are ones offered not only in the traditional careers of construction, mechanics or carpentry but also in fields of computers, medtech, insurance, accountancy and hospitality. Talk to a rep to find out about what an apprenticeship entails.

  •  Ask about what the university is doing to make sure their students are employable in the future market. With the job market requiring more distinctive skills and many careers going obsolete due to AI and automation if a student wants to have a secure job in the future, they will need the skills and knowledge. Is the college updating their modules each year, are they continually introducing new courses relevant to the new fields?

Hopefully this article gave you a clearer picture of the questions that would be worthwhile asking in order to bring you closer to making the right career/third level choice. 

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