The transition from second level to college can fill students with excitement and trepidation in equal measure.
Gone will be the safe, controlled environment of secondary school where you are surrounded by familiar faces, as college will require you to meet new people, become more independent and be more responsible for your own learning.
For many this new way of working can be difficult to manage, particularly if you are also trying to get to grips with moving away from home for the first time.
Although for many students the lure of moving away from home is very exciting, the huge rent costs charged in our cities and the further potential financial penalties associated with dropping-out of courses means that serious consideration should be given to where you decide to study.
It should come as no surprise that in recent years the numbers applying to Donegal’s own excellent Higher Education provider- LYIT, have increased significantly and with IT Sligo and Ulster University also nearby, the options are there for north west students.
Of course for some students there is no option but to go away if your local institution does not offer the course you would like to study, however, aside from this reason, there are many valid reasons to support the argument for staying at home to study.
Money. Money. Money.
Money, for obvious reasons, is the key consideration. For students who do not qualify for the SUSI grant, there is the €3,000 student contribution to consider. However, it is the accommodation costs that will make up the bulk of the costs involved-and these have been significantly on the rise in our city universities. (Source: Irish Independent)
Add in the costs of travel, food for the week and other course related costs and there may be very little money left for socialising, which may have been a key reason some students had decided to study away from home in the first place!
Conservative estimates are that it will cost on average €12,000 per year to study away from home. Factor in the fact that most degrees are 4 years long and the difference in costs between studying near home or further away can be considerable.
Keep it real!
There is a common misconception that just because a degree might require 500pts for entry it must be better than one that ‘only’ requires 250-300pts. This is just not the case. Points are decided based on the amount of applicants applying - the more people that apply for a course, the higher the points will be. Therefore, it stands to reason that a course in a city will require higher points than a course in an area of lower population.
A Leaving Certificate from Ballybofey is the same as one from Balbriggan. It is exactly the same in Third Level- a degree from Donegal is the same as one from Galway or Dublin. When you are a graduate, prospective employers will of course want to know if you have the qualification required, but will not be concerned about where you studied. More important for the employer will be you as a person and how you will contribute to the company, not where you studied your degree.
Best of both worlds
Starting college and moving away from home at 18 years of age is a big step. A popular option is to choose to study a degree close to home and then opt to do a Masters away from home when you are 20 or 21 years old.
At this age you may be more mature and better equipped to deal with living away from home. Taking the odd night or weekend away to visit former schoolmates and enjoy ‘Rag weeks’ can also help deal with any cases of FOMO you might have. The money saved can also afford the opportunity to travel on a J1 or Erasmus/International gap year which many colleges offer. Students can have the chance to travel the world by studying at home.
The personal touch
The smaller numbers studying in our local institutions means they are more conducive to a community feel and an environment where students feel connected. The smaller class sizes also ensure a more intimate teaching style.
This can be of particular benefit for practical degrees where students will have a better opportunity to get hands-on with the specialised machines, which is not always possible in large university sized classes which are often more theory heavy. Prospective employers appreciate students with this practical experience as they do not need to spend time training a new employee.
Become independent by staying at home
Many look to leave home in order to feel more grown up and independent, which is very easy to understand. However, a student who opts to study at home can easily maintain a part time job, which aside from the extra money, can add to your CV and help you gain an insight into the world of work.
In LYIT, over 60% of the courses now contain structured Work Experience and this engagement with employers can be extremely beneficial. The money saved from studying at home can also perhaps be used to learn how to drive. (The amount of cars in LYIT’s car parks attest to this!) These factors can place a student ahead of the game at a much earlier time than their counterparts who have moved away to study.
There’s no place like home
Finally, sometimes there’s just no place like home! Whether it is mum or dad’s home cooking, your own bed, a warm home, a full fridge, wifi. All of these home comforts that we take for granted at times, regularly prove to be some of the key things that are missed when a student moves away from home.
For those involved in sports or other clubs you can still attend training for your club and compete more manageably to get onto the college teams (LYIT can also boast Sigerson Level football now under the management of Michael Murphy).
Rory White is a Guidance Counsellor in Finn Valley College, Stranorlar and a member of the Donegal branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors. For over 10 years he has been helping Leaving Certificate and PLC students as well as adults choose a college course or change career path. His series of articles will offer advice to help make more informed choices in relation to these important decisions
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