Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Margaret Donaghue from Civil and Public Service Jobs to give some advice for people considering this job:

Margaret Donaghue

Prison Officer

Civil and Public Service Jobs

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Margaret Donaghue
Learn as much as you can in any situation that presents itself. Never be afraid to try something even if it scares you to do so. And give it all you have. Be a good listener and a good communicator and be fair.

Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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Leaving Cert 2017

Registration & Orientation

Once the student accepts a CAO course offer, the next stage of starting college is registration. This is the process of supplying colleges with relevant personal information, including a photo, payment of fees and registration for course modules and subjects.

Registration in some third level institutions is done online and procedures vary between colleges. In UCD for instance, the first step of registration can begin within three working days of accepting a CAO offer!

The student simply logs into UCD Connect via the UCD homepage using their CAO number and date of birth. Students are advised to change these log-on details to something more private straight away.

In DIT your invitation to register will be posted to your correspondence address with details on how to register and pay fees online.

At Maynooth University 1st year students arrive on campus for registration (usually the first week in September) and meet with college staff prior to full registration.


Student orientation takes place at the beginning of the academic year. A variety of events and activities are held on the college campus to orient and welcome new students and to help them find their feet in their new surroundings. It is advisable to check out the orientation dates for your college or course so that you don't miss out on this valuable opportunity to learn about college life, put your mind at ease, meet other new students and make new friends.

College Orientation and Registration Information links

Key Point

Colleges recognise the concerns of parents whose son or daughter has just enrolled as an undergraduate. In the coming years, college plays a central role in educating undergraduates and preparing them for the world of work and adult life. Striking a balance between natural parental interest and acknowledgement of the young person's new independent college life is worthwhile.


My son has been given a registration start time. How does this work?

class= "plainText" In some colleges, students are allocated a particular registration start time. This is when they can register for modules including electives. This system is designed for maximum fairness, convenience and efficiency.

Useful Points:

  • Instructions and guidelines should be followed correctly. It will save hassle.
  • Check if the registration has an expiry date.
  • Do not miss your allocated registration time if at all possible.
  • Early registration gives the student best chance of securing the right modules.
  • Do your homework and go along armed with a knowledge of the module & subject content of your course when registering.

Where can I find more information about registration and other key college dates and issues?

College websites provide comprehensive information on registration and enrolment. In addition, some colleges now run parents' information sections on their websites and parents' information forums during the academic year.

At what point in the registration process are fees paid?

Fees are paid at the point of enrolment or registration. Some colleges offer flexible late registration and fee options. In others, late payment of fees can result in a penalty charge. Incoming students are informed of the dates and deadlines. If they are away at registration time, they need to ensure internet access to complete registration.

What is a module? 

A large number of college courses are made of up modules in a range of subjects. A module is a self-contained section of learning work by subject for a given academic year. Colleges vary in how the module system operates but in NUI Maynooth for instance an entire year of undergraduate study is typically worth 60 credits (based on the ECTS - European Credit Transfer System). Different modules are given different credit weightings across compulsory, required and optional modules.

Different Colleges - Different Module Options

Course structure systems, subject and module streams vary amongst colleges. In Maynooth University Arts students have the opportunity to change or amend their subject choice up to six weeks following registration for 1st year. The option of general electives outside the core degree pathway is made available from 2nd year in Arts and 3rd Year in Science. UCD operates a system of compulsory modules, in-programme elective modules and general elective modules.

In some college courses, there are no module options or choices given - all modules are compulsory.

Selecting Course Modules

Some core elements of courses are compulsory but where there is an element of choice in registering for in-programme modules, a little strategic thinking can help with the selection process. Points to consider are:

  • Relevance of module to final degree and career prospects
  • Number of credits
  • Modes of assessment - e.g. attendance, participation, assignment, presentation
  • Professional exemptions - e.g. on successful completion of degree to a specified level, some business modules provide exemptions into Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI), Association of Chartered Accountants Ireland (ACCA) Irish Taxation Institute, Chartered Insurance Institute. Some degree programmes are approved by the Teachers' Registration Council for the purposes of registering as a secondary teacher
  • Is the module workload manageable when set alongside concurrent module workloads?
  • Career & Educational Progression - e.g. links into post-graduate programmes
  • Employablity Skills - Does the module offer an opportunity to develop solid employability skills e.g. through placement, research, team or project work
  • Level of genuine interest in subject 

Choosing General Elective modules

It's down to the individual student to choose what's right for them. Some may wish to choose a module out of personal interest and a desire to be informed, or simply to engage with a topic that offers a break from intensive course and study work. Others may see the module as a way to develop key Employability Skills outside the mainstream course.

Colleges offer help and guidelines to undergraduates on picking modules and subjects but here are a few points to bear in mind: Is the student eligible for this elective? Some modules (e.g. Maths) will require a certain level of competency. Is the time-table compatible? What modes of teaching are used? How does assessment work? How is the assessment load distributed across the semester? How intensive is the workload? 

I do not want to interfere in this process but I would also like to be supportive. What can I do? 

It's possible to be supportive without interfering. It may be that you can act as a sounding board, being available for the new undergraduate to tease out the pros and cons of each choice for themselves, by asking the right questions and helping to clarify their thoughts and options. It's tempting to offer advice but best to wait until asked if at all possible. 

What supports are there in college for my son or daughter as they settle into college after registration?

Colleges offer a variety of supports to incoming students as they make the transition into third level education. These include:

  • Orientation programmes - including social events
  • Study Skills Seminars
  • Examination, Project & Assignment support
  • Student Advisors
  • Counselling Support & Pastoral Care
  • Health care advice and support
  • Clubs & Societies
University of Limerick, for instance, offers a targeted First Seven Weeks Programme designed to provide strong, targeted support to students during the crucial early weeks of adjusting to college life. The programme includes Welcome & Settling In Week, Study Skills & Time Management, Health & Well Being, Liaison with Advisors, Learning Support Centres, Career & Civic Engagement Awareness, Critical Thinking & Long Term Career Planning.
Students that have entered college through the DARE Disability Access Route to Education) have access to a number of additional supports including orientation and educational needs assessment, assistive technology library support, academic and learning support, examination support.
Students that have entered college through the HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) have access to orienntation programmes, academic supports, financial supports, personal and social supports.

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