The Guidance Counsellor, Mr Humphrey Jones, has been busy collating information on the destinations and future plans of our most recent Form VI leavers. After their record breaking Leaving Certificate points average of 473 – most likely amongst the top results in the country – the vast majority of the sixty one strong cohort are taking up university places in Ireland, the UK, Europe, the US and across the world.
As per usual, a large proportion of our pupils have decided to take time away from formal education, with 24% of them choosing to go on a structured gap year. A considerable amount of time has been spent planning their year travelling and volunteering, with a wide range of destinations on view – from Africa, Asia, Europe, the US, Australia & New Zealand. The vast majority have included some volunteering work amongst their plans while others plan on learning a new language. Many have deferred courses until next September while others will reapply in 2017 with their excellent results. Interestingly, last year 30% of our leavers went on structured gap years and all, bar one, have taken up university places this September – in Ireland, the UK, Europe and the US. (In total, 94% of our 2015 leavers are currently in third level education, not the 34% recently publish in the Sunday Times league tables. Unfortunately, these “league tables” don’t include UK, European or US universities in their deeply flawed statistics – popular and shrewd choices for Columbans.)
Of this year’s leavers, 20% will take up university places in Ireland. Trinity College Dublin remains the most popular university in Ireland but we will have pupils at UCD, UCC, NUI Galway, DCU, DIT and elsewhere in 2016. 31% of our pupils have chosen a UK university to study in this year, an increase on last year, with many pupils obtaining places in some of the best universities in the UK (e.g. Imperial College London, University College London, University of Bristol & Loughborough). Again we see an increase in the number of pupils applying and obtaining places in European universities – 15%. The Netherlands continues to prove a popular destination for our leavers with six pupils taking up positions there, including three at the University of Maastricht. Many Dutch universities are ranked higher than Irish universities and offer flexible yet challenging degree programmes through English. Interestingly, three of the six pupils travelling to the Netherlands are Irish. There are also former pupils going to Spanish, Swiss and German universities in 2016. Three of our most recent leavers (5%) begin university courses in the US, including one at the University of Michigan. Another former pupil, from the 2015 cohort, also begins a course in a US university. Another of our leavers begins an engineering degree at the University of Hong Kong. The remaining 2% are beginning structured apprenticeship programmes in Germany and will look to apply to university in 2017 or 2018.
We are immensely proud of the achievements of our 2016 leavers and we know they have bright futures ahead of them. They have chosen destinations, at university or otherwise, that will provide significant challenges but equally significant rewards. Many have taken the difficult decision to expand their horizons and travel outside of Ireland to pursue their third level education. While this might mean their successes are misrepresented on the “league tables”, they have chosen excellent degree programmes in some of the best and best renowned universities in the UK, Europe and further afield. Those who have chosen to spend some time travelling, volunteering and experiencing different cultures will enter third level next year as more rounded and mature learners, ready for the challenges that face them. We wish them well and expect to see them back in the College in the coming years or at Old Columban Society events.