College Choice: Exploring the alternative routes to college
The CAO is not the only route to further education, as many students discover
Leaving Cert points are not the only way to progress to college
More than 30,000 students enrol on Post-Leaving Certificate-Further Education (PLC- FE) courses every year to gain a qualification in a vocational area such as hairdressing or security studies.
An increasing number of these students are using their results from these courses instead of their Leaving Certificate points to progress to a degree course.
This option will allow you to apply again to the CAO next year, presenting the result of your PLC course as your method of entry. You may also progress directly within the PLC sector, if you wish to obtain degrees.
PLC colleges throughout the country have progression arrangements with colleges and universities both within the Republic and in the UK, with reserved places for these students. As with CAO programmes, full details of all PLC courses are available on the qualifax.ie website.
PLCs are open to Leaving Cert Applied students. A student in Cavan Institute who did the Leaving Cert Applied and then completed security studies at level 5 and level 6 has worked as a licensed security officer at a range of major events in Ireland. She has since completed a BA in criminal justice studies, gaining a 2.1, and is now planning to do a master’s in human resources.
Many Leaving Certificate students select PLC courses in preference to progressing directly to the CAO when they are unsure that they want to spend three to four years studying a particular subject.
For example, by completing a nursing, business or computer PLC-FE course, you can find out in a year-long course if you are really interested in nursing rather than enrolling on a four-year degree course.
PLC-FE courses are all based on continuous assessment and not a final examination. They also contain a mandatory work placement in the area the students are studying so students can see what life is like in that career area.
Colleges offer placements throughout Europe to students on PLC programmes under the Leonardo da Vinci programme.
PLC courses are available in all counties and are reasonably priced – a €200 Government levy is the minimum charge plus course fees, but nothing as expensive as a CAO course.
Repeating the Leaving
The number of students repeating the Leaving Cert has been dropping considerably in recent years and is now well below 2,000 a year. The advent of the HPat test in medicine has taken many high-points students out of the repeats process. Having said that, for students who for various reasons consider that their performance in June and the result they received this day last week was not a fair reflection of their ability, they should seriously consider repeating.