There’s only two things in this world that seem to take an eternity, they are job applications and University applications. By this point, I’m almost an expert in the two, but yet, I still completely dread the process. This blog is to get you prepared for applying to an Irish education and the difference you might encounter between Irish institutions and your own countries.
How many times do I have to tell you my name?
Well, you may think that an application for a university that’s not in your country will be a bit harder, but I’m here to tell you that it’s all good! The application process isn’t very different at all. What about my GPA conversion? Well, they’ll do all of that for you. Wait, do I have to mail anything to them? Nope, it’s all taken care of online. Except when you get the acceptance letter, that comes in through the postal service, but then you feel like a big shot with some international letter. Before you ask, the interviews will be done over Skype. Unfortunately, they don’t fly you over for a quick meeting.
One large difference between Irish schools and my experience with American schools is where you apply. In the American universities, the student will generally apply to the school as a whole. In the Irish universities, you must pick your major before entering school and apply directly to that department. This link will take you to a list of UCC’s schools and departments. Each school has its own set of requirements and its own separate program path.
Yes, there are still essays!
Sorry, but you will still be required to write an essay. If you’re going for a master, you will also need to provide a resume listing out your selected accomplishments. Honestly, the application process is basically the exact same as the States. The response rate is a bit slower than the US, but that’s about it. I would recommend waiting at least 48 hours for a reply before sending another email….It’s a very relaxed country and I promise you’ll come to really appreciate it.
The Big Difference: The Education System
I have a bit of an issue with how the undergraduate system in the Irish universities works. When entering the university, you’re expected to know exactly what you want to study right away and to stay in the department from start to finish. In some ways it’s good. You don’t have to take all of those meaningless classes such as Government 101 or Agroecology when you’re studying Computer Sciences. This also means though, that you don’t have any electives, so your education isn’t very diverse. Your focus will always be the same and you will have the same lecturers through your whole undergraduate career.
This system starts at the Irish high school level where they study specific subjects and are accepted to university departments based off of their single scores in those subjects. It’s similar to the ACT or SAT, but you’re able to pick your own subjects. You better be sure those subjects are what you want to study for the rest of your life. These tests are called the Leaving Cert and trust me, you’ll hear about these all the time!
Big Brother is Real!!
There is one sight to really revel at, and it’s not the Irish landscape, it’s a University exam hall. Say Goodbye to quiet exams in your own classroom. You’ll be taking your exam with 300+ people. This environment creates a lot of stress, but this style has been embedded into the Irish since they were 15. Also, since exams are usually 50-90% of your total grade, procrastination is the preferable way of studying.
I never fell into this habit, but my programme wasn’t focused around exams too much…luckily! So, if you are coming for an undergraduate degree, be prepared, exams will be your life for at least a month or two every semester. If you have any worries or questions about specifics that I might not have covered, there are a few Irish here that can tell you all about their education system.
While all of this sounds a bit crazy to a foreigner, it works!! The Irish love to complain about their education system, but will defend it to the end of time. While it sounds crazy, the Irish finish their education much earlier than most countries and get their students into the workforce very quickly. I had a friend that went through the medical programme at UCC and is a licensed doctor now at the age of 24.
Due to the exam style, the students are also able to work part time through their education. Having a little spending money doesn’t hurt anyone. If you would like to get some work experience and make a few extra bucks, there are plenty of opportunities in Cork. Basically, the Irish education system is the most efficient system I have ever witnessed. So, if you’re looking to get done with school as early as possible and have a job right away, come to Ireland, you’ll be making money in no time and for a much more reasonable fee, at least compared to the US.