At this time of the year many Third and Fourth Year students are considering their options for Senior Cycle. Some thought and proper research at this stage paves the way for lots of opportunities for progression onto college courses, apprenticeships, training programmes and the workplace in the future. The main choices to consider are Transition Year, Leaving Cert Applied and the traditional Leaving Cert.

Transition Year: Opting to do TY gives students lots of opportunities to develop new skills personally and in terms of the world of work. It also facilitates work experience and subject sampling which greatly assists subject choices for Leaving Cert and subsequently career choices. Students are encouraged to engage in activities that move them outside of their comfort zone, allowing them to take on more responsibility and leadership thus gaining more independence. The TY programme varies from school to school so it is important to look at what is offered before deciding if it is the right option.

Leaving Certificate Applied Programme: For students who are interested in more practical learning and hands-on work, the LCA is the ideal option. It is a two year stand-alone programme which focuses on equipping students with work-based skills and knowledge while assessing in a more continuous way. Work Experience is an integral part of the programme, usually offered on one day of the school week. While students who do LCA can’t apply directly through CAO from Leaving Cert, most other career paths are open to them, including Post Leaving Courses (PLCs) which then allow them to progress onto Institutes of Technology and Universities.

Traditional Leaving Certificate: Moving into the final two years of secondary school requires students to make subject choices that suit them and allow them to progress in career areas they may be interested in. That said, it is perfectly normal for 15 and 16-year-olds to not know what they want to do after school. Students will generally take seven subjects for Leaving Cert; Irish, English and Maths, which are compulsory unless a student has a language exemption and four optional subjects chosen from those which are offered in the school. If on offer in the school, some students will also opt for Leaving Cert Vocational Programme (LCVP), a subject which focuses on enterprise education and preparation for the world of work.

Optional subjects should be chosen by taking the following into consideration; what subjects the student likes, what they are good at and what subjects/grades may be required for the colleges or courses that they are interested in. For students who have a big interest and a flair for a particular area for example business or science, they may opt to take two subjects from either area. For students who are considering applying to an NUI College such as UCC for areas other than Science, Food Science and Engineering they will need to keep on a language as it is a minimum requirement, while this is not the case for other Universities and ITs. For students who are undecided, the best advice is to choose a broad range of subjects. Consider taking one option from the following; a language, a science, a business subject, a practical or humanities based subject. By talking to the guidance counsellor in school, students can consider their strengths, results, aptitudes, interests and career areas they are considering before making choices. Further information on entry requirements is available on the college websites and by checking the subject requirement module on For information on the content of all the subjects on the Leaving Cert course consult


Niamh Dwyer is a guidance counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore and is PRO of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors.