Student Career Guidance

Student Career Guidance 

“What is worth doing is worth doing well
And with a little more trouble at first
Much trouble afterwards may be avoided.”

Max Muller’s words are readily applicable to second-level students.


“Could do better”, “should work harder,” “not making sufficient effort” are comments which feature on many report forms. Accurate or otherwise, they are rarely helpful. Quite simply, many students do not have the know-how to do better”.


I never met a student who actually wanted to fail or planned to fail. The old cliché, very slightly adapted, remains apt: students do not plan to fail, they fail to plan. Again they fail to plan for the very simple reason that they lack essential data or essential planning skills. It is very likely that they could do better; often they do not know how. They need focused guidance.


Student Career Guidance – FOCUS

3 crucial decision-making times:-

  1. Selection of Leaving Certificate subjects
  2. Time Management skills at beginning of Leaving Certificate Year 1
  3. Career/Course planning – CAO courses or other directions.

There are many others but I select these as red-flag occasions.




Be very aware that Leaving Cert subject choice may significantly affect CAO course choice. Be mindful of many myths regarding subjects that are ‘good for points’ or ‘not-so-good for points’. Be assured: these are myths, not guidelines.


Most students have little difficulty with the 3 core subjects Irish, English and Maths – though I suggest that Honours Math is often too readily discarded. The difficulty of the initial transition from Junior Cert. scares some students so that they switch to the Lower Course without giving themselves sufficient time to make a reasoned assessment.


Most students recognise the need for at least one additional language – some schools make this compulsory.


It is in the menu of optional subjects that mistakes are most often made. “Keep your options open” is quoted so frequently it resembles a mantra. Nor would I argue with the proposition. However, I argue vehemently with its frequent translation that one Business subject and one Science subject satisfies the condition. Likewise I alert students and parents to the fact that satisfying the minimum qualification level does not necessarily provide adequate foundation for the relevant programme. As an example, a Lower course ‘D’ in Biology satisfies the entry requirement for all Science courses. If Biology is the student’s only Science programme I’d place no bets on his chances of securing a worthwhile degree in Science.


Phrased very succinctly, it is very important to think beyond the immediate task and give serious consideration to the demands of Third Level studies.


Student Career Guidance – TIME MANAGEMENT


For most Junior Certificate courses, students can experience success if they merely “do the homework.” The Leaving Certificate programme normally requires a far more structured approach to study.  


At the same time, the Leaving Certificate student usually has a wider social calendar and frequently a greater number of extra-curricular sports, music or other commitments, sometimes even including a part-time job. It is in the nature of adolescents to blithely believe that they can manage all this comfortably. Inevitably, in a very crowded programme, study is most likely to be short-changed.


There is an effective solution. Quite simply, the student needs an appropriate time-plan designed specifically to suit her particular needs. One can call it a Study Programme and of course it is. However, an effectively designed schedule takes into account not only the required study hours but also all other reasonable demands on the student’s time. Planning the programme frequently brings the realisation that some activities have to be pruned back, or discarded.


Student Career Guidance – CAO COURSE CHOICE


Advice and information on CAO course choice is widely available. Students – and parents – are welcome to attend multiple College Open Days. Press and RTE join in, proffering much useful advice and guidance – all this in addition to the school Guidance Service. So a vast quantity of relevant information is accessible. Yet every year a significant number of students find themselves signed on to courses unsuitable for them. Why is there such disconnect?  I am sure that many students fail to process this information effectively and particularly fail to apply it to themselves. I believe they are often ill-equipped to so process. Hence, once again, I find no satisfactory substitute for focused individual guidance.


Madeleine O Shea  M.Ed, PCGC

Student Career Guidance

Student Career Guidance