Tips for Students and Parents on how best to choose Senior Cycle Subjects for the Leaving Cert.

This is the time of year when Junior Cycle and Transition Year students in Ireland make important decisions about Senior Cycle Subjects – decisions that may influence the options open to them after school. Here are some tips below from educators for students and parents who are currently trying to make these big decisions…

Choose subjects that interest you:
It is important to choose subjects that are appropriate to your interests, skills, and abilities. Do some research; look at the practicalities as well as the career, educational and personal consequences of each subject option available. Investigate individual Leaving Cert subjects check out grade requirements and links to curriculum/syllabi and related college and career articles and information.

Focus on the practicalities before making final decisions on subjects:
• What subjects are available at your school?
• Is there a clash between two required subjects?
• Be aware of any issues such as the level of difficulty of the course material.
• Check if there are requirements such as a portfolio as part of the assessment etc.

Keep your options open:

It is always advisable to keep as many options open as possible. Many college courses build on your learning in the Leaving Cert, but not all. A good example is Science.
Holding on to one Science subject for Senior Cycle (Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Physics & Chemistry, Agricultural Science) keeps several college options open including all Healthcare courses, most Science courses, Sports & Physical Education and Engineering courses. Home Economics S&S is acceptable as a lab science for some courses, such as Veterinary Nursing in UCD. However, to study Veterinary Medicine in UCD you must have a H5 in Chemistry.

It is widely believed that if a student does not study a language for the Leaving Cert they will not be able to attend third level – this is not entirely the case, but having a language in the Leaving Cert can greatly impact choices. Some schools allow students not to take a language for Leaving Cert – the decision to drop a language should not be taken lightly.

Most third level colleges do not require entrants to have a European language in order to meet the matriculation, or minimum entry requirement.
• At Trinity College Dublin, students are required to pass English and another language, and Maths or Latin.
• The matriculation requirements for DCU are Maths and English or Irish.
• UL – The University of Limerick requires students to have English, Maths and Irish or another language.
So, a student who does not take a foreign language at Leaving Cert will typically meet the entry requirements for these universities, as long as they take Irish, or have an Irish exemption.

Exemption from Irish:
A student with an Irish exemption may apply for exemption from the requirement to present Irish as a matriculation subject from the university they will be applying to.
The NUI universities (UCC, NUI Galway, UCD and Maynooth University) require students to have passes at ordinary level English and Irish. Students must also pass a third language* to take courses in the arts, human science, law, social science, commerce, medicine and health sciences and some other degrees.
• *Note re Maynooth University: The National University of Ireland (NUI) have recently approved the removal of the third language requirement for Maynooth University’s Business, Accounting, Finance and Law degree programmes. For entry 2017 and subsequent years, a third language is not required for any of the MH400 and MH500 degrees; namely MH401, MH403, MH404, MH405, MH407, MH411 as well as MH501 and MH502.
Students are not required to pass a language for entry to engineering or agricultural science.

The Institutes of Technology generally expect students to have passes in English and Maths – not choosing a language should have no impact on a candidate’s ability to get place in one of their programs.

PLC colleges do not require students to have taken a language.
A modern European language will also be required for application to cadetships in the Defence Forces.
So, while not choosing a language will not affect entry to the majority of third level institutions, it will restrict choice to some extent.

Overall the advice is to carefully check out the impact of specific subjects on desired third level course choices. Do not make your choices too narrow to be sure you keep as many options as possible open.

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