When you finish secondary school, you do your Leaving Cert, get into college and jump into your career...right?!
NCI postgraduate student, Kate Morris, shares her story with us to demonstrate that education is not always about going from point A to point B. There may be some hurdles in the way and you may have to follow your gut by taking what feels like a step backwards, while always keeping in mind that everyone's path will be different.
One of our core values as a college is to be inclusive by breaking down the barriers to third-level education. We strive to be inclusive by offering alternative entry routes to students such as Level 6 courses which allow progression to Level 8 degrees, apprenticeships in financial services and recruitment, by offering part-time study options for those returning to education and by having an Advanced Entry agreement with a number of Colleges of Further Education, allowing their students to progress to second year on a range of business and computing degrees.
Kate is a fantastic example of how taking an alternative route to a third-level qualification means you can still meet your education goals. She shares her story of taking the Advanced Entry path to study business at NCI, moving up to master's level and what's next for her below.
Tell us a bit about your education journey to date.
When I was in my last year in secondary school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in college - all I knew was that I wanted to go because all of my friends were and it seemed like the natural next step! I got over 400 points in my Leaving Cert and was happy to accept my place in UCD studying a BA in Economics and Politics in 2015. That September I certainly hit the ground running in terms of embracing all of the wonderful new experiences that college life had to offer including heavy involvement in many of the college societies and making a fantastic group of friends. However, as much as I enjoyed the college experience, I knew deep down that the course wasn’t the one for me and my heart wasn’t in it. After toying with other modules, I eventually left UCD at the start of 2018. Making the decision to drop out was certainly a long time coming but at the same time felt like such a giant leap into the unknown - far more daunting even than starting my course in the first place straight after the Leaving Cert!
If there is anything I have learned over the past number of years it’s to trust in the timing of your own journey because everyone’s will look very different!
I really didn’t know what my next step should be and I was faced with the decision between working full-time or continuing with my education. Knowing that business was what I was truly interested in studying, I decided to enrol in the Advanced Business QQI Level 6 course offered by Rathmines College. This year-long course was the perfect fresh start for me and allowed me to study material across all areas of business in an environment that was extremely student-orientated. The course also incorporated a work experience module which was a brilliant change of pace and allowed me to gain first-hand experience in a financial institution and helped guide my decision about what my next step should be.
Towards the end of the year in Rathmines, NCI’s School Liaison Officer Karen Campbell gave a talk at the college about the options available to students beyond QQI level 6. As someone who had taken a slightly unconventional route after the Leaving Cert, it was great to hear that NCI shared many of the same values as Rathmines College in terms of being highly learner-centred. Investigating a bit more into the BA in Business at NCI and the modules on offer - I was sold! I decided to continue with education and complete my degree in NCI between 2019 and 2021.
How did you benefit from the advanced entry application system?
Initially when I enrolled in the QQI Level 6 course, I viewed the year-long course as an official qualification to have under my belt as well as an opportunity to buy myself some time in terms of deciding what was next in terms of my career path - at the time I never intended to return to a Level 8 course any time soon! What I think is brilliant about undertaking PLC and Further Education courses is that the modules give the learner a real flavour of what the field of study is all about in both a practical and classroom setting. For people who aren’t sure exactly where their interests lie or who are worried about trying something completely different as I was, these year-long courses are also much less of a financial and time commitment compared to a 3 or 4 year degree programme.
"I was able to directly join second year of the BA (Honours) in Business degree at NCI by applying through advanced entry which was a big bonus as I was eager to progress."
I was able to establish through the Advanced Business Level 6 course that business was something I was genuinely passionate about and more importantly the advanced entry system allowed me to join Second Year of Business in NCI which was an even bigger bonus for me as someone who was eager to progress. Through the Level 6 and the advanced entry system, my outlook, opportunities and confidence had grown exponentially in just over a year - something I could not have foreseen when I first started the previous September.
Can you share some insights into studying business at NCI?
Studying business at NCI was everything I had hoped it would be in terms of an undergraduate programme. Despite starting straight into Stage 2, the lecturers and staff at NCI were so accommodating and the way in which lectures are delivered at NCI meant that I adjusted really quickly and I knew exactly what I was supposed to be doing in terms of assessments.
Not only was the course content varied and interesting, the industry links within NCI and the Careers Department meant I was given a sense of direction and broader goals to focus on in terms of career options available down the line. They worked with the class groups and each of us separately to help us realise our own talents and show where a degree in business from NCI can take you which was really important to me as someone a little bit older.
Do you have any advice for someone who is worried about getting into college?
My advice to someone worried about getting into college would be to remember that there are always alternative routes to get to where you want to be. The most important thing I would say is to focus on where your passion lies and that taking time to find out what that might be if you’re unsure can be a great experience even if it feels a bit daunting.
There are so many brilliant Further Education colleges across Ireland that will allow you to study in an area that interests you before deciding if you want to take it further and study at Third Level. As well, many colleges like NCI work closely with the FE Colleges to make the transition from Level 6 very easy for students. Often in Ireland it can feel like there is a lot of pressure to go straight from school to Third Level- there is always more than one way to get to where you want to be!
What’s next for you in terms of your career?
Having achieved a final 1.1 result in my degree, I am delighted to be continuing my studies at master’s level having been awarded a First Class Honours Scholarship from NCI in recognition of my undergraduate results. I am currently studying the MSc in International Business and really enjoying taking my education further in NCI - especially now that the campus is open again after Covid-19!
In terms of my career, I would love to get into the area of research as the thesis process at both undergrad and postgrad level has been something I have thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t know exactly what my next step is in terms of my career but if there is anything I have learned over the past number of years it’s to trust in the timing of your own journey because everyone’s will look very different!