College Choice 2015: think outside the box to nail a place on your dream course

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

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

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

 

Up to 80,000 people will seek a third level college place through the CAO this year; 60 per cent of them will sit the Leaving Cert for the first time in June; about a quarter will be 19 to 22. Every one of these applicants will succeed or fail to get their desired place based on CAO points scored in one sitting of their Leaving Cert or an equivalent exam.

For the 12,000-plus adults over 23 who will apply for college through the CAO, success will depend largely on the quality of their personal statement in the application, and of interviews after the February 1st application closing date.

University College Dublin, University of Limerick, NUI Galway and University College Cork have introduced a Mature Students Admissions Pathway for some faculties. This test, on March 7th, is operated by ACER, which also runs HPAT for undergraduate medical entry (msap-ie.acer.edu.au).

What happens if you don’t get your place through the CAO this year? In most of continental Europe, entry to third level is seen as an entitlement. But in Ireland there is an acute shortage of places in many disciplines. We also have an almost unhealthy focus on academic courses in universities and institutes of technologies, to the detriment of other potential career pathways. This increases the difficulty of getting a place on many courses.

However, don’t despair if you genuinely feel you have the aptitude for, interest in, and ability to work in a particular job or role, which might be blocked by a shortage of points. There is a range of alternate options to help you progress to the course you really want – and, from there, to the career you want.

These alternatives include:

Use the full range of options at all levels within the CAO application process to to get to your desired course. You have 10 course choices each at levels 8 and at levels 7/6. To give yourself the maximum chance of a suitable offer in August, list other courses from other colleges as well as your “must have” college.

Get your first-choice course through the CAO in the future, through the reserved places allocated to those who successfully complete a Post-Leaving Cert (PLC) course in a Further Education (FE) college.

Study your preferred course abroad through a linked CAO course or an Irish FE programme. For example, if you want to do physiotherapy but know you won’t get the 500-plus points for a level 8 degree in Ireland, you could opt for either physiology and health science at the institutes of technology in Carlow or Sligo, and then transfer to a UK university to finish your physiotherapy degree.

Go directly to third level in the UK or in a continental European university, or farther afield. As with the previous example, there are 12 physiotherapy degrees taught through English in EU universities, all with more modest entry requirements than those of Irish colleges.

Work your way up to your occupational/career goal through employment linked to study options.

Within your CAO application, maximise your chances of securing your career goal by exploring all related and linked courses at levels 6/7/8. Go to the advanced course search facility at qualifax.ie and put any or all words related to your particular career interest in the search field. There are numerous level 6/7 programmes that link directly into degrees but require an additional year’s study for the qualification.

Do not discount this method of getting your dream course out of some false sense of pride in not wanting to be seen to accept a level 6/7 programme, or a level 8 course in a college that is not your first choice. Detailed research on your choices at this stage will pay huge dividends in August, when you receive your college offers through the CAO.

Tomorrow: PLCs: beginning your career journey outside the CAO system.

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