Focus on the path, not the points

With so much commentary regarding the CAO deadline, the points system over the past couple of years and the changes to the third level landscape in Ireland, it would be easy to get distracted from the really important questions students and their families should be asking.

Dr Derek O'Byrne, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Registrar at South East Technological University (SETU) Waterford has always advocated the “right student for the right programme” philosophy which he considers “an obvious, yet often overlooked approach”.

“The conversation is preoccupied with a focus on the points system. So much so that you could be forgiven for forgetting that its purpose is simply to balance the supply and demand for a particular programme based on the number of applicants and the number of places available,” Dr O’Byrne explained.

“The real question should be, ‘What is the right pathway for each student?’. This is a decision for the students themselves but we at SETU can certainly help. We want students who will enjoy and profit from their time at SETU. As students grapple with their final preferences, we recommend they ignore the clutter and white noise and focus on why they made their original choices in the first place. Have they done the research? Are their choices based on points or on a desired pathway to achieve their ambitions? And do they know it’s ok not to be sure?

“Evidence suggests students enjoy their college time more and do better in their exams if they match their skills and interests to their third level choices. Selecting a course that is of interest and is accessible physically, financially, and most importantly, emotionally, will likely result in better performance and better career focus. This applies in the short term through better academic performance in college but also in the longer term through the passion and creativity, developed in a positive college experience.

“There are so many subjects to choose at college, and most of them don’t directly map onto what’s available for the Leaving Cert. Students tend to understand the careers they have seen. If a parent, relative or friend is an accountant, engineer or teacher, they might be more inclined to follow that path. SETU encourages students to think, not in terms of subjects or careers, but in terms of skills and abilities.

“This is the last chance for anyone hoping to start college in September to ask any questions before that all important CAO deadline. There are several ways you can ‘Chat to SETU’. We’ve help lines, drop-in days, an online LIVE chat service, Instagram and WhatsApp sessions, and of course we can be contacted via email on [email protected] or [email protected].”

The times and details for these services, along with a full listing of the courses at the university can be found on the SETU website at