It’s that time of year again.
If you’re in sixth year the ‘what do you want to do next year?’ question has inevitably been fired your way more times than you’d like.
As someone who didn’t have a clue what they wanted to do after the leaving, I hated this question. All I knew finishing sixth year was that I wanted a place on a level eight course at an Irish university.
Why? I think I felt that this was what I was supposed to be aiming for. It was what my friends were aiming for. A default course choice if you will.
I had an interest in music and languages so I ended up studying Italian and music at UCC. I liked my undergrad but I do think there were other post leaving cert options that I would have equally enjoyed.
Over the past few years, I’ve met people who took completely different paths to me after secondary school. These individuals gained great skill sets, knowledge and work experience and have ended up in jobs they love.
These alternate routes may not be ones your friends or family have taken so they might not be options you’ve considered while trying to figure out your next step.
1. Level 5, 6 & 7 Courses
Level 8 courses are not your only option.
There are SO MANY brilliant level 5, 6 and 7 courses often overlooked by students.
I remember discovering Ballyfermot College of Education a few years after my leaving. They offer courses in the areas of media and marketing that look amazing.
I’ve ended up working in these two areas and probably had an inkling at school that these they were areas I really liked. However, I only had my sights set on level 8 courses at the time and the points for many media and marketing courses seemed a bit out of my reach.
Many level 5, 6 and 7 courses are only one or two years long. This allows students to try out a subject they have an interest in. If you enjoy the course, you might decide to further your education in that specific subject area. If you don’t like it, you haven’t spent years and years studying something that you don’t enjoy.
Another study route that is often overlooked by students are apprenticeships. Apprenticeships allow students to earn while they learn.
While a lot of us are familiar with traditional apprenticeships like plumbing and carpentry, there’s also loads apprenticeships available to students in the areas of finance, IT, engineering and biopharmachem.
If you think an apprenticeship would suit you and your style of learning, check out apprenticeship.ie.
The following options may have been a little more feasible before Covid-19 hit, as the outbreak may affect the availability of jobs and people’s ability to travel in the coming weeks and months.
3. Work for a year
Don’t know what you’d like to study? Want to save up for college or get a bit of work experience to help you figure out your next step?
Working for a year after your leaving cert might be a good option.
For example, a recent guest on the podcast Alan O’Mara finished school at 17 and worked at a local newspaper for a year before heading to college to study journalism.
Just another option to consider.
4. Au Pairing
Did you enjoy studying a foreign language at school? Like working with kids?
If you’re not sure about starting college this year or need a bit of time to decide what you’d like to study, au pairing might be a good option for you.
I au paired for a family in Italy during one of my summer breaks in college. I really improved my spoken Italian and enjoyed learning about Italian culture. The family treated me as one of their own and I’m still in regular contact with them.
In my opinion, there’s no better way to learn or improve your foreign language skills than truly immersing yourself in another country with a native family.
Kids tend to use simple words and talk slowly when speaking their own language, so they actually make it somewhat easier for you to improve your language skills while you spend time taking care of them.
While it can vary between families, au pairs are generally asked to work 5 days a week and get evenings and weekends off. Weekends off allow au pairs to explore their local area, meet up with other au pairs and locals or travel to other regions within the country.
Workaway might be another option to consider if you you’re not entirely sure what you want to do after school and want to give yourself a bit more time to decide.
Workaway offers individuals the opportunity to work with a host family, organisation, company etc. for a period of time.
If there’s an area you have a specific interest in (carpentry, social media marketing, IT, painting etc.) there are numerous opportunities to work in these areas. Alternatively, if you want to try your hand at something completely new, Workaway is also a good shout.
Workers are typically given food and board in place of payment for their work (payment is only provided by some hosts) and the hours can vary depending on the person orgroup you are working for.
Many individuals use Workaway to experience new cultures and to work alongside people from a range of countries. Shorter hours and free weekends allow you to explore the area you’re working in and do a bit of travelling too.
For more info check out Workaway.
Teach English Abroad with TEFL
Like the idea of teaching but not absolutely sure it’s the study route you want to take? Want to teach English while living abroad?
Why not get your TEFL certification and head away for a while.
The TEFL certification makes it a bit easier to find jobs as you’ll be considered a well-qualified candidate with the TEFL certification under your belt.
Look, deciding what to do after the leaving is hard. There’s no doubt about it.
I know it’s easier said than done but don’t be afraid to go your own way.
In my opinion, there can be a slightly snobbish culture in Ireland surrounding college and course choices. Instead of choosing a course and college that suits their interests and style of learning*, students often feel compelled to pick a course and college that others hold in high esteem - be it friends, parents, siblings, teachers, aunts, uncles etc.
Find a course that you feel passionate about. Then pick the college. That’s what I think anyway. No point ending up in a college with all your friends but absolutely hating your course, is there?
Finally, if college isn’t for you that’s absolutely fine. Don’t feel pressure to go if you don’t feel it’s right for you. Think about other avenues you might like to pursue and go from there.
Hope you found this helpful,
*Finding a course that suits your style of learning is so important. If you're not overly academic, courses that encourage students to learn through practical, hands on projects might be a better fit for you than courses that expect students to learn through writing lots and lots of academic essays etc. If you're interested in a course, be sure to look at all the modules on offer, how students are assessed ect. and contact the course coordinator if you want to learn more about a specific course. Don't be afraid to contact course coordinators - they want students to apply for their courses so they'll be happy to answer any question you might have! Contact details can usually be found on course and college department websites.