Monday 26 August 2019

CAO points race shouldn't just be about the jobs market

Editorial Comment

This week marks the familiar wave of anxiety and anticipation as over 52,000 students receive first-round CAO offers. For many it will all have worked out as planned. For others it's a period of disappointment and uncertainty - but this feeling should not be allowed to linger for long.

This year's new exam grading and CAO points scale meant that the revised entry requirements for some courses gave applicants a fairer chance and, indeed, the points were down for more than half of the courses offered.

But not receiving a first-round offer does not mean the end of the world and despite higher numbers achieving top choice courses this year, students who missed out should not be too disappointed at the prospect of a repeat year.

If there is a course you really want, then it pays to stick with it. Even though it mightn't feel like it now, this attitude enhances character and self-determination in ways that won't seem obvious now but will in time to come.

Once again the prevailing economic and social climate has determined student choice. Uncertainty over Brexit and the potential opportunities it provides for Ireland, may be one factor in the sharp rise in numbers applying for business related courses. During the height of the recession, applications for first choice business courses stood at 10,000 but this year this has jumped to 13,000.

Also mirroring the upswing is increased interest in building related courses such as construction and architecture

The increase is offset by decreases in arts and social science courses, down from a high of 18,455 first choice offers in 2010 to 16,562 in 2017. Also down for the same period is teaching - from 5,538 first preferences to 4,951, possibly a reflection of ongoing turbulent industrial relations issues in the profession. Similarly, points requirements for the equally under pressure nursing profession have been reduced.

But while course choice has always been influenced by the world we live in, this approach comes with inherent dangers for students who feel compelled to choose a course based on popularity and economic relevance, rather than choosing a course with a personal interest.

Tailor-making courses to suit demands and shortages within the economy is far from a poor strategy. But choosing the right course should reflect a student's inner passion and desire to study what they love as much as it reflects job prospects.

With over 80,000 applicants in the mix for 50,000 places it meant some students would fall short of their first choice. But this needs to be translated into a positive reaction.

Parents should assess any disappointments and help to encourage their children as some of life's greatest decisions have come from periods of uncertainty and disappointment.

And while congratulations are in order for the thousands who received first round CAO offers, for those who did not, the message simply is, don't despair. Simply realign your focus and get back in the game.

Wexford People