Ask Brian: My daughter is stressed out by her CAO choices. Can you help?

There’s no need to panic. Career choices are one step on a long and evolving journey

Most students  are in a constant state of flux regarding their current career and future aspirations. Photograph: iStock

Most students are in a constant state of flux regarding their current career and future aspirations. Photograph: iStock

 

Question: My daughter is feeling increasingly distressed as she grapples with the CAO application process. She says all her friends seem to know what career path they want to follow, but she feels totally at sea. Have you any advice?

Answer: Your dilemma in supporting your daughter through her Leaving Cert and CAO application is a common one. She is, of course, completely misreading the situation of her friends who all seem to be clear regarding their college applications.

In my experience, most students – and adults, for that matter – are in a constant state of flux regarding their current career and future aspirations.

The first thing your daughter needs to realise is that career progression is an ever-evolving process which will go on for as long as she has the energy to work. Leaving school and making a decision on the next step in one’s career journey is a significant step, but by no means a life-determining one.

My advice to the vast majority of sixth-year students is to consider what would motivate you to get out of bed on a cold winter’s morning next year, to go to a lecture or other activity which you genuinely find interesting.

By focusing on the immediate choices she faces as a sixth-year student, and forgetting about what occupation she hopes to start in her working life in five years’ time, you daughter is likely to make the appropriate choice for her.

At the end of her first year in whatever she chooses to do, your daughter will be faced with choices between a range of internal course options. She will be in a better place to make those choices having experienced the first year of her course and the relevant subject modules.

Final choices

This process will repeat itself every year, as each year’s experience frames her choice for the following year.

It’s also important to remember that there is plenty of time to make a decision on courses. The CAO application process is designed to allow students to make their final choices on courses in the 10 days following the completion of their Leaving Cert exams in June next year.

All that your daughter is required to do now is register with the CAO online (www.cao.ie) and give them her personal details – name, address, etc – and a credit card payment for €25.

If she is considering any course which has a portfolio of performance aspect to the assessment process – which are listed as “restricted” in her CAO handbook – she needs to list such courses by February 1st next.

She can, of course, change her course choices between now and the “change of mind” deadline of late June. When that date arrives, the world may look very different than it does now.

So, to any student who is currently stressed by college choices, my advice is firstly to register with the CAO, attend whatever college open days or talks that interest you, and then get on with securing the best Leaving Cert you can.