The ‘You’re Buying a House’ Model of College Selection

Published on 15th November 2019 under Blog Topic - Students,

Did you know that a four year degree can typically cost up to €55,000? That includes student contribution fees, student accommodation and other living and study costs. That’s the equivalent of a hefty deposit on a house, yes? I’ve been thinking, why not approach your college decision as you would buying a house?

College visits are a huge part of the research process and can be an invaluable experience if approached in a planned, conscious and curious way. I’ve called it the Location, Location, Location career model! I’ve laid out 9 tips that might help, let’s apply the model:

1. Decide on your criteria: course and college – what’s negotiable and non-negotiable in terms of college.
for example: quality student: lecturer ratio, distance from home or must have a drama scene/ Erasmus programme/ paid work placement/ etc.

2. On a school organised trip, bring a trusted friend. Before you arrive at the college, talk to your friend about what you want to check out, you do the same for them. If you feel too intimidated to talk to college staff, ask the guidance counsellor to smooth the way and introduce you. Most students take the brochure and run, but linger a little and you’ll soon strike up a conversation with staff and/or current students helping out on open days. If there is an organised tour, make sure to take it.

3. To help with the ‘conversation’ part of the open day, why not create a list of questions to ask. For instance:

  • What is the most challenging part of this course?
  • Any tips for studying particular modules?
  • Work opportunities/ areas for recent graduates/ postgraduate opportunities?
  • Useful leaving cert subjects?

4. What are you hoping to learn from the open day? Discuss this with your parents/ guidance counsellor. Talk about the visit with your parents, teach them something new, that’s a great way to learn and recall information for yourself.

5. While at the open day, take in details with all your senses and keep an open mind. What’s your overall impression? What’s the look and feel of the college? What surprised you? Why not take a photo record of your trip, you can share these with your parents and refer to later. This first trip is all about first impressions, your initial ‘heart’ reaction.

6. Now you are ready for a second viewing. Choose to visit your preferred 2/3 colleges with your parents. The second viewing is your methodical, ‘head’ reaction and judgment. When viewing again what do you notice? Does it feel bigger/ smaller/ more or less impressive? Try to attend the college at a different time of year/day to get a different perspective. Here are some activities you could do:
i. Look at the student accommodation options
ii. Visit a lecture/ tutor/ college department
iii. Check out the career services
iv. What are the canteen, library and other student areas like
v. Check out the bulletin board – what can you deduce from the notices?

7. Now what do you feel after a second viewing? Did you notice any differences/ surprises? You’ve now completed your second viewing!

8. Put in your offer, that is of course, your CAO selection list in your preferred order. In ‘you’re buying a house’ model that means:

a. Researching the potential CAO points based on previous years.
b. Checking basic entry requirements
c. Completing any preliminary test in advance of the leaving cert.

9. Wait for the offer to be accepted in August! Don’t forget, it is also wise to prepare some back up plans, options include further education courses.

There you have it, a ‘buying a house’ approach of college selection with the Location, Location, Location model applied.

As you’ll know from this long running TV programme, even if the potential buyers don’t make an offer or the sale falls through, they always say that the process was very worthwhile. I think it could be for you too. Good luck in your college/ course search.

If you’d like some additional support, you can always get in contact!