Now is the time to explore all your options
No matter what points you achieve, there will be a course to suit you
If you have not already done so over the past year, spend the next week or so looking at the options within the classifications listed on Qualifax. It’s worth taking time to make the right choice. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
Q Why is now a good time to reassess my CAO options?
A When you made your initial CAO application you were probably buried in preparations for your Leaving Cert, or Post-Leaving Cert (PLC) programme. Now the examination is drawing to a close, your mind is freer of those pressures and anxieties. You now have nearly two weeks to finalise your list of course choices.
Q How do I go about listing the most suitable courses in the correct order?
A Many applicants use their initial application in January as a holding exercise, simply to secure their route to a college place in September. Now that you have to submit a definitive list of options, you must ask yourself which course or courses will build on your strengths, interests and aptitudes and enhance your capacity to enter the labour market at the end of third-level.
Q How should I go about making these choices?
A You need to be aware of the courses on offer. The CAO handbook for the 2013-2014 academic year was printed in the summer of 2012 and is based on the information provided at that time by the colleges.
Since then many courses have been withdrawn, amended or added by the colleges who offer courses through the CAO. The CAO website, cao.ie, has an up-to-date list of these amendments.
To examine the current list of courses on offer through the CAO, including details of each programme, go to qualifax.ie. You will find a drop-down menu which classifies every course under the following headings: administration/ business, agriculture/horticulture, architecture, art/design, arts/ social science, built environment, dentistry, education, engineering/technology, human medicine, law, nursing, other healthcare, pharmacy, physiotherapy, science, applied science, and veterinary medicine.
Spend the next week or so exploring your options within these classifications. No matter what points you achieve in your Leaving Certificate on August 14th, or through your PLC course, there are courses on offer from colleges at higher certificate, ordinary and honours degree levels, which will suit your circumstances.
Q Now that I know where to find information on all the courses, how do I apply it to myself?
A Most of you will have been through this process with your school guidance counsellor over the past year. If you are still uncertain, follow these steps:
– Take the interest inventory on qualifax.ie and careersportal.ie and see if they highlight any areas of particular interest to you.
– Re-read the results of other interest inventory or differential aptitude tests you undertook in the past two to three years. They may point in the direction of one or more of the 17 course groupings outlined above.
– Look at your results in your school subjects over the past few years, including the results of your Junior Certificate.
Are you performing above your average in one or more specific subjects? These subjects may be the ones to pursue in an undergraduate course.
– Reflect on any work experience you undertook as part of Transition Year or Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme and ask yourself whether it enthused or discouraged your interest in a particular occupation or career path.
– Reflect on the subjects you have just taken in your Leaving Certificate or other examinations. Which ones did you enjoy studying most? Which ones did you most enjoy writing about in the exam hall over the past two weeks?
The answers to these questions may help you to narrow your course choices down to a relatively small number of options.