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Higher Options offers prospective students a great opportunity to meet representatives from a lot of universities all under the one roof. Photograph: iStock
We have reached that time of year again when students start researching courses and educational institutions as they enter the final phase of their time at secondary school.
This is a central and necessary step for anyone who wishes to make an informed decision about their future career choice. The Irish Times’ Higher Options expo offers students a valuable opportunity to engage directly with multiple universities and educational institutions all at once. For many years, it has been Ireland’s main information-gathering opportunity for secondary school students.
This means anyone interested in pursuing a course can collect information directly from university representatives about what is on offer in terms of university admissions, course content, study options and graduate careers.
Traditionally held as an event at Dublin’s RDS, Higher Options will be held online this year. We caught up with Janet Stafford, manager of Higher Options, and asked her what students can expect from this year’s virtual experience.
The event will take place virtually over two days and will give students the chance to find out about the study options available to them after the Leaving Cert. Irish, European and UK universities and colleges will be represented. Generation Apprenticeship and This is FET [Further Education and Training] will be there alongside further-education colleges to provide information on alternative routes.
Students can expect a unique opportunity to ask questions, attend talks and speak with staff and students from a wide range of organisations in order to help them make decisions on CAO, further education and training opportunities.
It will provide the opportunity for two days of intensive information gathering at the start of your Leaving Cert year. It will enable you to begin making informed decisions for later in the year.
The last two years have taught that gathering information on a variety of different routes to your ultimate study and career choice is a very wise idea. It will open your eyes to a variety of study and career possibilities.
Many universities will hold open day events this year, some online and some in person. It would be wise to dedicate time to attending a number of these.
Higher Options, however, provides a great overview and a chance to find out about all the opportunities for further and higher-level study in Ireland and further afield in one place. It can help you focus your ideas on which open days may be best for you to attend.
You may want to fill in your CAO form but also investigate what a further education route looks like; you might want to know what studying through English in a European university would be like or what options are available in the UK. All these channels can be explored at Higher Options.
There will be plenty of current and recently graduated students taking part to answer questions about their experiences of study and college life. It can be really helpful to put questions directly to them at the exhibitor booths and to hear their personal experiences and insights in different talks.
Tickets are available at higheroptions.vfairs.com now and throughout the event. These grant access to the online portal for the live event and for 28 days afterwards.
The event is laid out intuitively. Your unique access link will enable you to log in and see the event lobby. From there you can opt to visit the exhibitor halls where you’ll see a layout of the colleges and institutions. When you click on these you can use the chat function to ask your questions to college representatives. You can download documents and links to video content into your virtual event backpack.
Checkout the timetable for talks before the event and note which talks you would like to attend. Click on the auditorium button on the navigation to access the timetable again and the talks. Have a good look at all the stands and information. You have two days to put forward your questions and time afterwards to look through everything on the site.
Most stands will aim to have sufficient staff on hand to answer queries, however, like in Higher Options in real life there will be busy periods at some stands. It is a good idea to book a chat slot with a booth representative beforehand – this can be done before the event opens. Look at the representatives on each booth – a description by their name should give an idea of what course or information area they specialise in so you can more easily identify who you want to speak with.
Be patient – if a booth is busy go and look at the other areas or attend a talk in your area of interest and then go back. The event is running from 12 noon to 6pm (or a little later) each day so you can check in at school and again at home to give yourself the best chance to gather information and speak with the people you want to at less busy times if necessary.
Yes, colleges and institutions will be able to provide information on specific courses. You can also request some follow-up contact on a specific course.
This is done through the chat function – the button to access this is clear at each booth you visit.
Booth reps will aim to answer questions in as close to real time as possible. If a booth is busy you can look at the groupchat thread and will often see your question answered there. Or join a chat topic about the area you’re interested in. Very large colleges such as University College Dublin and Technological University Dublin will have multiple booths representing different faculties or information areas. Visit the one that is most relevant to you.
All exhibitors will have documents and links for you to download. You can click on them to add to your virtual backpack. In many cases you can follow up to request a prospectus be sent to your school. You will be able to fill your virtual backpack and return to the site to browse for more information or watch back the career talks after the event.
Almost every study area you can imagine is covered in the career and information talks area. In addition you can watch the Me and My Career talks on demand to find out about gaming, cybersecurity, forensic pathology, entrepreneurship, animation and reaching the top in business. This is FET, Generation Apprenticeship and the Education and Training Board representatives will provide information on a wide array of training and skills opportunities.
The UK, European Union and Irish third-level institutions represent a vast number of course choices among them.
Information stands such as HPAT, Susi or Eunicas are there to answer questions on medical school entry, grants and studying in Europe respectively. Professional bodies such as the Chartered Building Institute, Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland, Public Appointment Service and Fáilte Ireland are there to answer questions about options and careers in their area.
Specialist colleges including The Lir Academy, BIMM Institute or the National College of Art and Design are focused on a particular area of specialist training and are well worth a visit if you are interested in specific areas of the arts.
All of the talks at the event will be recorded and available to access for 28 days after the event closes. There are a number of on-demand information talks and specialist career talks to access too.
There is a lot of information to gather from the event – don’t try and do it all at once. Think ahead about the areas you might be interested in and try and book a chat slot with a booth representative in that area in advance. Have an open mind about different options and explore at least five things you might never have considered before to see if they might suit you or if you can rule them out.
Put some thought into the questions you want to ask. Representatives at the event are there to provide information for you and want to do so – considered and courteous questions will help you to get the answers that will be most helpful to you.
The online event is an opportunity to gather a lot of information that could be helpful to you. Make the most of your time to do that.
Higher Options 2021 takes place online on October 13th and 14th from 12-6pm
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