The Irish TImes Higher Options event will take place at the RDS in Dublin from September 14-16, 1916. Here’s why I’ll be attending Higher Options with my son who is planning to go to college and also my tips for making the most of the visit.
#1. It’s a Unique Opportunity
Higher Options includes university and college stands representing more that 170 Institutions. It’s a one stop shop which really lets you find out what’s on offer and to see which university or college appeals at one event.
#2. You can get all your questions answered
College staff and students from a range of courses, both from Ireland and overseas will be available to offer first hand information and answer questions. This is invaluable to get the chance to talk directly to them, without having to visit all the ones you are interested in or have to phone them all.
#3. Going with your teen is useful to them
You can support your child on the day, you can find out information that they might not think to ask, and you can share the “workload” as it were by splitting some of the visits up between you to cover more ground than they would themselves. Plus it’s nice to be involved with their decision making!
With so many stands, talks and information available it is important to plan carefully to get the most out of a visit. Here are my tips:
#1. Make a plan for the day with your teen and help them stick to it
Before you leave home find out what college courses or locations are of most interest to your teen. Study the floorplan and exhibitors list and make a plan so that one or both of you visits the stand of every college of interest. You will also need to include the most relevant talks in your plan. With two of you there you will cover twice the ground.
#2. Help to avoid information overload
The amount of information can be overwhelming, with lots of stands competing to attract students attention. You can easily get distracted by crowds and freebies and it can be exhausting. With two of you there you can take time to get a coffee, compare notes and arrange to revisit stands of particular interest.
#3. Ask questions from a parent’s point of view
Let’s be honest, your teen may have a slightly different set of criteria for choosing a college or course than you. You may not be as concerned about the best society for nights out or trips abroad. This is your opportunity to have your queries addressed.
You can ask college representatives directly about the cost of living, availability of student accommodation, campus security, additional college costs over and above registration, and the health and support services available for students.
#4. Identify options available for every possible Leaving Cert result
Each September students start a new school year confident that everything and anything is possible. That is how they should feel. However, as parents, we know things don’t always go to plan. Students get ill, nerves hit during exams and sometimes papers don’t ‘suit’.
By all means encourage your child to reach for the stars, to fulfil their potential, but at Higher Options you have the opportunity to discover what other options are available should exams not go to plan.
#5. Keep an open mind
Whether you have been to college or not, its a different place from when you were young. With so many new courses and disciplines it can be tempting for parents to steer their children into more familiar and traditional areas of study. Just remember, some of the most successful people at the moment are working in jobs that weren’t invented when they started college.
At Higher Options you can discover what new opportunities are available for the next generation of students, and ask college staff for information on career prospects and the potential to build and grow in new sectors.
#6. Continue the conversation
When you return home, sit down together and look again at the material you picked up. Read through the notes you took and if necessary reach out to contacts you made if you need more information or clarification.
Try to get your child to filter all the information they received. Encourage them to focus on particular areas of interest, then look at the range of courses in that area, and the location of colleges providing these courses. This will help you both draw up a list of options, which can then be refined before application deadlines
Most importantly remember this is your child’s journey, not yours. Your role is to guide, inform and support. Ultimately the choice of college and course will be up to them.
Over to you now. Have you any advice to add? Share it with us in the comments below.
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