You have just over a month to make sure you choose the best course and the right college for you. Here’s how to go about it

Important dates to take note of in the CAO process

Students at work at the IADT in Dún Laoaghaire. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

A qualification in business is a great investment in your future career and there is a huge selection of courses to choose from (...)

Advice on how to approach the CAO process and how to get your course choice right

A Bakalaura diploma from Latvia is comparable to an award at level eight in the Irish system. Photograph: iStock

Here’s how to check your qualification in more than 100 countries

Lidl Ireland offers a two-year retail-management degree in partnership with Dublin Business School. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Do you think I could manage a business degree while working part time to fund myself?

Photograph: Thinkstock

There is a a wealth of full-time and part-time options available for graduates

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For the first time in Ireland, those seeking such apprenticeships and employers seeking to recruit them have a central portal in w(...)

Photograph: Thinkstock

Follow the subjects you have a passion for

The NCCA says the requirement for questions based on the Koran are explicitly stated in the syllabus. Photograph: Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

A Syrian parent's complaint over religious content will form part of wider review of syllabus

“Your daughter currently has no option other than to study the Koran if she wishes to take Arabic for the Leaving Cert.” Photograph: Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

Authorities overlooked the fact that someone fluent in Arabic might not be Muslim

Mary Hanafin as minister for education increased the oral component of Irish from 20 to 40 per cent for Leaving and Junior Cert

A longtime ASTI ban means many schools have not provided oral exams, but this is changing

Photograph: Thinkstock

Rising demand and a cap on numbers are likely to make it more difficult for applicants

Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Go over your mock papers in detail: they are a map to better performance in the actual exams

Authorities have confirmed that parents do not have an automatic right to information held by schools regarding their children once they turn 18. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Move could leave parents in the dark on examination results and disciplinary records

Photograph: Thinkstock

I can vote but I still have to raise my hand to go to the toilet

 Ruairí Quinn: as minister for education he tried to cut spending by adding the abolition of external assessment of Junior Certificate exams. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

A lack of leadership means the union is being driven by emotion and anger

Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Let’s bust this myth: there are no easy subjects in the Leaving

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There are lots of options in Europe but they can be very challenging

This morning CAO application numbers give us a first glimpse of what may lie in store for this year’s college hopefuls.

Higher education sector has faced growing numbers without extra resources

Postgraduate programme will add set of cross-sectoral skills to enhance employability

Next step up the career ladder: investigate the vast range of conversion courses which can focus your academic and personal skills on a specific work sector

A postgraduate degree can be a springboard from a general area into a more specialised one – and can lead to a change in direction(...)

Differentiating between what’s on offer and ensuring your course has credibility in the labour market is key

Working collaboratively: Several institutions, including Trinity, UCD and DCU offer interdisciplinary master’s degrees. Photograph: Getty

Research shows that advanced degree holders are more employable and earn higher salaries

Dublin City University. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Rising student numbers and limited places mean points increases are likely

“It is not surprising the Taoiseach acted in the interest of the existing Senators from Trinity and the NUI colleges.” Photograph: Eric Luke

The short answer is no. But why not?

A student in the PLC colleges system will quite possibly be open to a range of fees, levies and charges. Yet a student in a training centre will face no such charges. Photograph:  Thinkstock

Costs vary significantly between training centres and post-Leaving Cert colleges

“Some graduates have continued their education through MSc programmes to become specifically trained in areas such as physiotherapy”

Sport and exercise science graduates are well-placed to find work in a thriving sector

Photograph: Thinkstock

A student who dramatically improved her results offers test advice

Photograph: Eric Luke

Changes to the college entry system should remove many of the barriers facing students with A-levels

Remember to list your course choices in the order you want them, as you could be offered any of them, depending on your Leaving Cert results. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Do your research to maximise your career potential and never list a course if you have not researched the lecture content througho(...)

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It is important to clarify the issues that are causing her such unhappiness

A Higher Education Authority report shows one in six  college students are failing to progress past their first year. Photograph: Eric Luke

There are many alternative routes where school-leavers can build on their talents

The UCD Sutherland School of Law on the Belfield campus. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Some 43 per cent of students who receive grants do not pay €3,000 registration fee

Students must meet certain criteria to take advantage of the schemes. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Schemes are in place to help increase participation rates among marginalised groups

If you are thinking of applying as a mature student, you need to consider the kind of information colleges want in assessing your application.  Photograph:  Cyril Byrne

About 12,000 mature students will seek a third-level place through the CAO this year

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan. Photograph: Eric Luke

The Minister has suggested parents shouldn’t have to pay. Where do I stand?

 First round: students check the CAO website as offers are published. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Further Education route can suit students who struggle to secure high points

 What course will get you out of bed on a cold January morning next year and for the next three to four years? Illustration: Getty Images

Do not be fooled by the lure of high points or that slick advertising, writes Brian Mooney

The points for any third-level course can rise or fall each year and is determined by supply and demand

Checking the CAO first round offers in August 2015. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

You need to register now to apply for college through the CAO, but you have until July 1st to make a final decision on your course(...)

Don’t have a clue what to do after the Leaving? Don’t panic, you don’t have to decide on the rest of your life just the next few y(...)

Leaving Cert: If you were eligible for Dare in 2015 and are considering reapplying to the CAO to start college in 2016, you may carry forward your eligibility

Can I carry forward my eligibility for third-level alternative admissions schemes?

If possible, volunteer to assist in a dig next summer before you commit to a degree programme in September. Photograph: Thinkstock

I have looked online and they all seem pretty similar

Each year the tables show very large numbers of students who go to college attended schools in socially advantaged communities, and that they tend to opt predominantly for universities and teacher training

Explaining the progression charts of Irish secondary schools

There are 100 schools in Ireland where the number of students who took the Leaving Cert in 2015 is 80 per cent or less than the number who took the exam in 2014

Schools with dramatically falling numbers can have grossly inflated progression rates

She may have done all of the appropriate research and discussed her decision with her guidance counsellor but has now decided architecture is not for her. Photograph: Thinkstock

My daughter is most unhappy with her architecture course she started in September

Photograph: Thinkstock

He is in first year but couldn’t choose tech drawing as the class was full

The number of students per lecturer has increased hugely, explaining your son’s experience in college

The lack of one-to-one support is shocking

Minister for Education and  Skills Jan O’Sullivan with TY students Cristin Limpahan and Alya Azman at the launch of  the five-year ICT strategy for schools at Mercy Secondary School in Inchicore, Dublin. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Poor ICT teacher skills are a recipe for disaster in the classroom

The CAO website. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Don’t panic: students can change course preferences completely in the 10 days after the Leaving Cert

Lab work: Niamh Connolly of Cross & Passion College in Co Kildare takes part in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland 2015 open day. Photograph: Maxwell

You’ll be spending years of your life at college. Open days give you a great chance to assess how good a fit your choices could be(...)

Photograph: Thinkstock

I have spoken to the principal and teacher but the problem remains

‘The sad truth is the ASTI has ceased to function as a representative organisation for its members, and the ones to suffer will be the students.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Ask Brian: Unless it is resolved by Christmas, junior cycle reform may collapse entirely

There are lots of free events such as Science Week, above, or coding clubs such as Coder Dojo, where students can try things out for themselves. Photograph: James Connolly

She has an aptitude for science and maths but she sees the area as being just for geeks

Photograph: Eric Luke

New grading and points systems should greatly reduce the random nature of offers

Photograph: Cyril Byrne

She’s a bright girl with good ability, but is more interested in her social life and clothes

A number of faculties now want to drop the test which medicial school applicants take.

The controversial entry tests for medicine may only benefit those able to pay

Ministerial action: Richard Bruton claimed the Action Plan for Jobs could help create 25,000 jobs in the southeast over the next five years. Photograph: Sara Freund

Colleges still working independently to fill course places and retain teachers

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A new regular feature that answers readers’ education queries

Ellen Kelly opens her Leaving Cert results accompanied by her father, Edward Kelly, and dog, Jessie, at Loreto College on St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Just under 3,000 places offered in CAO second round, which will disappoint many

Dublin Business School

The CAO isn’t the only way to access third level. If you didn’t get your choice of college offer, there are other routes

Transport services for wheelchair users are in huge demand so you need to contact them well in advance of the start of term

College Choice: Support and access services should be contacted before the year starts

 The Union of Students in Ireland in conjunction with the Private Residential Tenancies Board have launched the Student Finance and Accommodation Guide. Photograph: Iain White

College Choice: First SUSI payment due on September 25th

The vast majority of further education courses offer progression back into a CAO course through reserved places. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

It is worth taking time to think about your options as there is no one route into a career

Any existing CAO applicant who has yet to get an offer they want can place an advertised Available Place in any slot on their application record. The CAO will accept new applications from any person interested in courses, but only in courses on this list. Photograph: Reuters

Even those who missed out on a first-round offer can still get a place in a college

Application deadlines have passed for many continental European degree programmes but some are still open for courses from September, particularly in the Netherlands

Don’t panic: a college place might still be within your grasp

Weighing up your options: if you are unfamiliar with the course or college you have been offered, do not accept it until you have fully explored it on Photograph: Thinkstock

Here’s how to deal with the offer of a place you received today, or an offer in future rounds

Trinity College Dublin

CAO points show ‘it’s the economy, stupid’ as many courses are harder to get into

For those of you who get their first choice course on their level 8 list, the choice is simple – just click on the accept button on the screen and print your acceptance notice. Photograph: Getty Images

On Monday morning students will be able to access their CAO offer with their password

In 2014 there was a surge in applications for computer science degrees. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

The offers are due on Monday, but what are the college entry requirements likely to be?

Checking up: You can access the marking schemes for every paper and see how they were applied in your case. Script viewing is in schools on Friday evening, August 28th, and all day Saturday 29th. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

If you feel you should have done better, you might consider getting papers remarked

Once you have got over the initial excitement of seeing your grades in print, your mind will turn to your points score if you have applied for a college place through the CAO process

CAO offers for college places will be made on Monday. What can you expect to happen next, and how do you handle it?

The number of students taking chemistry is up 4.2 per cent to 7,533, with an increase of 0.6 per cent in honours grades

More students took higher level papers, especially in Stem subjects

If you opt to view an exam script, you must personally view the script: you cannot send someone to view it for you, although a parent or someone else you nominate may accompany you

If you feel you should have done better, you can view your script to decide if it’s worth having it rechecked

The CAO points for construction-related third-level courses are expected to rise this year. File photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Analysis shows points for arts and science courses are likely to stay at same level

The scores recorded in the HPat assessment for medical school entry have fallen for the second year in a row. Photograph: Getty Images.

Tests examines logical and non-verbal reasoning and inter-personal understanding

The prospect of selecting a set of course choices that will set you on a career pathway can seem very daunting, if not impossible

Students still have until July 1st to finalise their course selections on the CAO form

No matter what points you get in your Leaving Cert, there are courses on offer to suit your circumstances

With exams out of the way, this is the time to review your course choices and get them right. Here is some advice on how to handle(...)

What you eat and drink affects your performance in any activity, especially one involving mental sharpness. Photograph: Getty Images

Remember, these papers are not designed to catch students out, writes Brian Mooney

Different gateways to college: sports scholarships (pictured is a Sigerson Cup match between DCU and DIT in 2012). Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Not all courses are offered on points alone, for good reason, but unless funding increases, many students are not going to get a t(...)

All international and local research shows higher levels of education increase your employability as well as your salary

Is it worth spending another few years at college? An advanced degree can help a graduate become more employable and earn a higher(...)

Taught postgraduate courses can be a continuation of your undergraduate studies or in a new area

More than half of all undergraduates now go on to postgrad study – and there’s plenty to choose from

Masters students at Cork University Business School (CUBS) trade in the financial markets at the QSTC Trading Lab located in the department of accounting, finance and information systems at UCC. Photograph: Jim McCarthy

Postgraduate degree can be a great springboard to a specialised area

The initial 2015 application statistics for those seeking college places through the CAO are published today. The experience of many students shows that changes are needed to the current applications system. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Students should be able to switch college options after release of Leaving Cert results

Trinity College doesn’t feel the need to offer points concessions to attract elite performers, but does support such students through coaching, physiotherapy, medical services etc, after a normal CAO application. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill.

Some offer financial support, others are based on academic or sporting prowess

The availability of places in continental Europe has seen a growing number of Irish students going there to study after doing the Leaving Cert. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

College Choice: More and more students are broadening their horizons and pursuing courses abroad

A mature student open evening is being held at UCD on Tuesday from 5pm-7pm. Photograph: Frank Miller.

There are also challenges for over-23s applying for and attending university

Supports include:  orientation programmes, extra tuition, exam support, access to assistive technology and training, one-to-one meetings with support staff, mentoring and organised social gatherings.

Comprehensive supports are available in most third-level colleges for students with disabilities or at disadvantage

Post-Leaving Cert courses can provide an alternative route to university or college. Photograph: Eric Luke

Huge opportunities are available to progress to third level through further education

If you don’t get your preferred level 8 course offer there are numerous level 6/7 programmes that link directly into degrees but require an additional year’s study for the qualification. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Explore level 6, 7 and 8 courses on CAO to maximise your chances of a suitable offer

UCD Open Day: Deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life at 18 is a totally false dilemma. Photograph: Jason Clarke

Don’t have a clue what to do after the Leaving? Don’t panic, you don’t have to decide on the rest of your life just the next few y(...)

In the Netherlands most courses are €1,850 a year and there are grants and loans from the Dutch government.

Low fees, no CAO and an international experience

NUI Galway, which has a far lower population density than the Dublin region and thus a lower number of applicants, has seen students secure places on 300 points in recent years

Don’t make mistake of seeing your points as a currency that must be ‘cashed in’

If you are interested in going to an Irish university like UCC (above), institute of technology, teacher training college, or private college, offered through the CAO application process, go to by January 20th

Given the high entry requirements for many disciplines in Ireland, students should also look at some of the 800 courses offered th(...)

We must preserve what is really valuable and fair for pupils in second-level education

  Some 77,977 people applied for a place in one of Ireland’s 45 third level institutions in 2014. Photograph: Eric Luke

Only 70% of those starting college in September did Leaving Cert in June 2014

Open days give third-level and further education students a great opportunity to assess how good a fit a potential college could b(...)

Leaving Certs wondering what they’ll do after school can start working with online study and career resources

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