Since September, Ireland’s third-level institutions have returned to life with all students on campus, in the tens of thousands, for the first time in three years.

All third-level colleges can now admit 2,023 prospective students to campus during the current academic year.

Being able to physically experience the student environment – even if only for a few hours – can provide a boost to the thought process of the importance of maximizing a student’s performance in the Leaving Certificate as they consider the next step in their lifelong career.

It can also bring more focus to the interaction between the student and the school counselor as they work together to determine the most appropriate course option to continue after school life ends in June 2023.

Whether a student attends an open house virtually via a website or in person, the key to a successful transition to higher education or further education is to focus on the suitability of curriculum content, college facilities, housing availability or public transport links, and not to a desired professional field or a specific job they may hope to move into after graduation.

This challenge may come into focus in four to five years’ time as college life draws to a close and the needs of the labor market in 2028/209 become apparent.

Basic research

Whatever the nature of your upcoming open house, you should do some basic research about the colleges you’re considering and their courses before each event. Ultimately, depending on the decision you make before the CAO course selection process is completed on 1 July 2023 and the course offer you ultimately receive next August/September, you are dedicating several years of your life to this next phase study and learning.

For many, this process has already started. Over 25,000 students attended The Irish Times Higher Options conference in mid-September. There they benefited from talks by experts in further and higher education at home and abroad, heard about apprenticeships and other learning opportunities and spoke to representatives from many colleges and courses.

You may have already read the CAO Handbook 2023 online at and study all third level and further education college courses offered in Ireland

Of course, Leaving Certificate students are not only looking at courses offered through the CAO. Thousands choose to study at a local Further Education (FE) college, where they can gain QQI Level 5 and 6 awards, which facilitate employment, or onto those CAO courses, which leave FE graduates with a percentage of first-year undergraduate places.

All PE colleges hold their own open days, often holding several such events throughout the academic year.

Several thousand Irish students will apply for courses in Northern Ireland (especially those living close to the border), Scotland or, in some cases, England, despite the annual fee of £9,250.

These applications are made through the UK Universities and Colleges Admissions Service ( Around 2,200 applicants from Ireland made this choice last year, including 850 who went to Northern Ireland.

EU citizens can study in any EU country on the same terms as at home, and thousands of Irish students have chosen to study one of over 1,000 English-taught courses at continental EU universities over the past 10 years.

These EU colleges also host private open days that Irish students can attend – cheap airfares should help minimize the cost of attending such events.

You can find out more about these activities at the Central European Universities Application Support Service (

Course content

As you explore your college options, keep in mind that coursework is only a small part of what you’ll experience when you arrive on registration day in late August or early September next year to begin your college life. You will enter a community that will help shape you for the rest of your life.

In our personal relationships, we take time to get to know other people and every aspect of their personality before we commit to them.

Choosing a course that requires you to live your life in that community for at least three years should be considered just as carefully.

The only way to assess whether a college is right for you is to explore every aspect of its life as fully as possible at an open house and see if it’s a good fit for you. It is more than an intellectual exercise.

As a consultant and teacher for more than 40 years, I have dealt with many students whose minds were full of facts and figures about dozens of courses but could not distinguish between them. They are lost in a sea of ​​data, without a guide to make the right choice.

The best clothes

Would you commit to a relationship with someone after reading the facts about their life so far?

At a college open house, you’ll see that the institution is doing its best. It is dressed in the best outfits, full of presentations, smiling student ambassadors, friendly teachers and goodie bags, all designed to present the college in the best light.

It can be difficult to see the true nature of student life from such an experience. But you can see some of the ideal presentation that a college puts on at an open house if you take the time to dig a little deeper.

If you’re particularly impressed with a college or course after an open day and plan to put their program at the top of your CAO application list, then just try going back on a normal day and wandering around to see if day-to-day normalcy gels with it presentation at the open house.

It may well take the next six to eight months to clarify your thought process about where you want to go in the world after high school, but if you follow the tips above, you’ll likely find clarity by the time your senior year closes. on July 1, 2023.