Your final years at school can be overwhelmingly daunting to everyone, no matter what anyone may tell you! The stress of impending exams, studying, parents and teachers constantly in your ear… all of this does not help the fact that you are also faced with a big decision regarding your future. Whenever you meet someone new or maybe a distant relative, the first question they will ask when they hear you are in sixth year is ‘What are you hoping to do next year?’ I’m sure you’ve probably heard it a 100 times.
If you are anything like me, your response may be awkwardly delayed or even too rushed, as it is extremely difficult to come to a definitive answer on the spot, especially if you are not entirely sure. It is important to remember that not knowing one hundred percent what you want to do next year is totally okay! I guarantee you that you have more time than you think to figure it out and things will always work out in the end.
Once you have done the Pathway survey, you should have a very good idea of what it is you want to do, and this is linked to what suits you the best. In this article, I’m going to share some additional tips and pointers with you from me (a first-year college student), that I believe helped my personal decision-making process. This includes seizing opportunities, defining your passions and talents, and trusting yourself!
1. Seizing Opportunities
Sixth year is an extremely busy year filled with study, projects deadlines, oral exams etc. Among this chaos there will also be an abundance of college open days and presentations carried out by colleges all year long. My advice to you would be to sign up for ANYTHING that you may be remotely interested in, linked with your Pathway top 12, because you truly never know where you could find your niche. If you can, attend as many different college open days as possible, to get the true feeling of the campus.
I travelled to University College Cork for their open day when I was not really considering going there at all. But four of my top 12 Pathway course were there, so I had to go and see. Within the first five minutes of being there I knew it was the place for me! Now I am a student there and I could not be happier. This does not mean a virtual experience is any less fulfilling, as you will still get the opportunity to experience the energy and environment of the campus, just in a more unique way.
As well as that, when you attend these university open days you can meet with students and staff. Talking to students is extremely helpful, because they, more than anyone, understand what you are going through this year and all the pressure that comes with it. Remember that everyone you encounter is there to help, as they have all gone through the exact same thing! Talking with the college staff is also very important, as they can give you a real account of the course you may be interested in. Every college lecturer is incredibly passionate about their subject, so they can offer you the most detailed course outline and the expectations that are involved. In addition to having and studying your Pathway report, it is also important to engage with the Career Guidance teacher at your school, as they can offer you top notch advice, not only on universities and colleges but also on accommodation, financial grants, the CAO process and more. All it takes is a quick chat or maybe a quick email. Again, they are there to help you!
2. What makes you ‘tick’?
Another piece of advice I would give is to really focus on what makes you tick. What are your passions? Do you love to read? Do you thrive off classroom debates? Do you get satisfaction from a perfectly executed equation? Do you love the process of cooking or building? Maybe you love to problem solve, maybe you love to talk to people or maybe you just love to listen to them. In what field do you want to make a difference in the world, and how can you have fun while doing it? Pathway considers all of this, but it’s good for you to check this as well.
My answer is simple, whatever it is that you are passionate about, must be the driving force behind your ultimate decision. Remember that nobody truly knows you better than yourself! There is really no point in choosing a course that you are not passionate about, not only will you not enjoy the course, but you will also be preventing yourself from reaching your full potential in not just a career, but in life. Pay attention to the subjects that you particularly enjoy, and the content involved too. You do not necessarily have to be amazing at it, you just have to have the drive and passion to do well in that subject. Every individual person has their own ambition to make a difference in the world in their own unique way, so never compare yourself to someone else during your decision-making process!
3. You do You!
Albert Einstein once said, “Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Once you have identified your passions and defined what drives your ambition, it is quite important to note that during the course of this year you will slowly realise that everyone you talk to has their own opinion on every course. Whether it is your friends, family or teachers, you will be met with a million different opinions that will have their own approaches towards different career paths. Although it is so important to consider different opinions and take note of certain aspects of each path, you must remember that this is your choice and no one else’s. You must come to your own conclusion on each career/course based on your own research and experience. Of course, every career has its downsides! It is vital to erase any preconceived stigmas you may have about certain courses, as this prevents you from truly exploring all your options. Whether it is pay, hours, workload, or course length, it really should not matter if you are willing to put in the work and commit and do the best that you can. Once again, the moment you realise that you know yourself better than anyone, you open a up a window of opportunities and the sky’s the limit!
Overall, there is no doubt that sixth year is a very chaotic and overwhelming year. Choosing your ideal college course is a process that takes a lot of thinking and a lot of research. However, it is possible! In addition to Pathway, there is an abundance of resources available to help you decide on what you want to do and many things you can do to help yourself along the way. Seizing the opportunities that you encounter, narrowing down your talents and passions and believing in yourself among them. These points are imperative to come back to when you are exploring your options. It is easy to get lost along the journey of sixth year and there will be many moments of uncertainty, but just remember you are not alone, and there are supports in place to help you. Picking your college course will teach you valuable life skills, such as decision making and researching, so be sure to do it thoroughly and with intention! Trust yourself and your abilities and it will all work out in the end.