Top academic-ish competitions for Leaving Cert students

All of these are either purely academic or supportive of an application to a third level institution abroad, but not athletic, hence the -ish. This list is only a baby, so please add anything noteworthy in comments (e.g. debating) - I would be very obliged - Martina.

JP McManus Scholarship for top Leaving Cert students

There is no application process.

More than 100 high-achieving school-leavers from low-income families will receive scholarships on Saturday for third-level education under an initiative established by Limerick billionaire businessman and racehorse owner JP McManus.

As part of the programme, the Department of Education identifies the two best Leaving Cert results in each of the 26 countries, along with the next 48 most successful results countrywide. Eligible students in the Republic must be in receipt of medical cards.

The value of each scholarship is set at €6,750 per year (£5,500 in the North) and continues for the duration of the undergraduate programmes chosen by the scholarship winners.

Participation in the scholarship scheme in the Republic is confined to the 15,000 or so Leaving Cert students on medical cards in more than 650 non-private secondary schools.

There is no application process for the programme in the Republic and award- winners are automatically notified. Source

The Irish-Austrian Society Essay Competition

You need to submit an essay by a deadline in spring.

There are 3 categories:
- Junior Cert
- TY
- 5th and 6th year

Essays must be written in German and should be no more than 200–250 words in length and should reach the office of the Irish Austrian Society by a deadline in March (please check). 

Essays will be judged by university lecturers nominated by the Austrian Embassy in Dublin and only pupils, with non-native German speaking parents will be considered. Essays will be judged entirely on their written content and embellishment, drawings, etc. will not be taken into consideration. 

The prize is very generous: a 2 week course in German in Salzburg in June with all your expenses paid.

I won it when I was in fifth year. There were 6 of us from Ireland. It was a really nice two weeks in Austria, though it rained quite a lot. We stayed in what can be described as a boarding school and the classes took place in Salzburg proper. The students came from all around Europe and ranged in age. I shared a room with a lovely Slovenian girl who was also doing the same course. We became friends with a bunch of Italian people and ended up speaking English almost the entire time.
You need to create a project and submit it by a deadline in spring.

How to enter

1. Decide whether you want to work by yourself, or make a group entry. You can apply through your school or from outside of school.

2. Pick a topic or question that interests you and research it, or examine it through dialogue with others.

3. Fill out and return the application form by a date in March (please check their site)

4. Prepare your entry, which should have two parts: (a) A visual thinking display (eg poster or series of pictures), showing how your ideas have developed, and (b) A project, using any medium you wish (film, podcast, essay, script, photography, cartoon, sculpture, etc.) conveying your thinking.

5. Prepare for the IYPA festival of ideas at UCD in May

This will look pretty cool on a UCAS application, I imagine. I would be keen to help out anyone who is doing this, just shoot me an email!

Irish Maths Olympiad

If you are interested in the Irish Mathematical Olympiad, please contact a maths teacher in your school and let them know about this website.

The contest takes place in 2 rounds: Round 1 in November and Round 2 in April/May. In between the two rounds, there are classes in 5 locations around the country: Maynooth, UCD, UCC, UL and NUIG.

The people who win IrMO get to go to the International Maths Olympiad.

I attended the classes in Maynooth every Saturday during my 5th year. 

The Maths was way beyond Leaving Cert level. It's much more conceptual and logic-based rather than technical, e.g. thisI found the algebra part entirely doable, but the probability and matrices were a bit beyond me - and I cannot honestly say that my heart was in it.

In January there were about 40 students in the class - and about 10 turned up for Round 2. In other words, it's hard.

It is the sort of place where you may get a rare sighting of the queue for the male toilets.

The university is absolutely stunning and the lecturer was super friendly. We got complimentary tea and biscuits during the break which was held in a beautiful dining hall. This was always the best part because the maths made no sense at all because the winter I did it was absolutely freezing and I got to mingle with a lot of interesting folks.

Irish Junior Science OlympiadIrish European Science Olympiad and selection events for Chemistry, Biology and Physics International Olympiads

Application to IrJSO is by invitation only. The finalists are selected on the basis Junior Certificate Examination results. The State Examination Commission (SEC) identifies the high achievers in Maths & Science in the Junior Certificate Examination (must include A in Mathematics and Science).

There is no registration fee and no participation fee for the IrJSO. The student must pay all his/her own expenses incurred in travelling to and from DCU and any other personal costs incurred, e.g. B&B, meals etc.

Please note that there are strict age limits.

If you succeed in this, you could make it onto the Irish IJSO or EUSO team that compete internationally. 

You can only participate in each Olympiad once. If you are currently in TY, then you will be able to participate in IrEUSO next year (if you return your form for IrJSO this year). However, if you are currently in 5th year, then you can choose which Olympiad to participate in. 6th year students are not eligible to participate in IrJSO or IrEUSO, even if age eligible. Click HERE to know which olympiad you should register for in 2017.

It seems like students from Ireland no longer go to IBO and IPhO, alas! Computer Science seems to be doing well though! If you are interested, I would talk to your teacher about it.

I did Physics in EUSO which was held in a glorious European country, Ireland.  Yep. I remember feeling well prepared for EUSO. From memory, the event went on for 5 days. We were put up in a nice hotel in Galway and brought around to see castles, adventure-park type things, etc - it was awesome fun. There were 2 practicals. Each team has 3 members, one from each of Physics, Chemistry and Biology. 

As for IBO and IChO, my friends' and my memories are that we felt quite unprepared - and this is on a background of competing in a lot of national competitions, successfully. You're handed a university textbook and tutored by extremely dedicated lecturers during the Easter holidays and then during the summer before the international event itself. People who do A-levels tend to do better. The people you will meet at these events are often frighteningly erudite and intelligent. They come from all over the world and it's an eyeopening experience in many ways.

As one of the experiments, an IBO candidate was asked to dissect a flatworm and put a pin in its gonads, which the biologists among you will appreciate is effin impossible quite challenging. At IChO I was asked to do these type of problems. Here is an example of other past papers from IChO.


EUSO 2005 Irish team
12 years later: a dermatologist in the making, a gastroenterologist in the making, a vet, a GP, a management consultant - and me (easily excited as ever) - and three of the loveliest lecturers in physics, chemistry and biology from DCU.

top academic competition for Leaving Cert students
11 years later: a Harvard-trained dermatologist in the making, a Harvard-trained post-doc researcher in Stanford, an Oxford-trained post-doc in, basically, rocket science, a UCC/TCD post-doc in big pharma - and me, taken at IChO


BT Young Scientist

Second Level students aged between 12 –19 years on 31st October 2017, resident in any part of Ireland, are eligible to enter. You have to offer a project, either an individual or a group one.

Projects can be submitted in one of the following four categories by a deadline in September:
  • Biological & Ecological Sciences
  • Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences
  • Social & Behavioural Sciences
  • Technology

Please read the full rules and dates here.

To enter, my friend and his team (3 in total) had to come up with a hypothesis-driven project. They did upstream and downstream water samples of an agricultural, a residential and an industrial area. Looking back, he says it wasn't well designed as there were no controls ðŸ˜…😅.  They got in anyhow and had a great time at the exhibition.

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