Review your choices before time is up

Look over your CAO choices while you still have time to change your mind

Now is the time to review your CAO choices. The price of failure to do this now before the CAO change of mind closes at 5.15pm on July 1st can be a very big one. Photograph: Reuters

Now is the time to review your CAO choices. The price of failure to do this now before the CAO change of mind closes at 5.15pm on July 1st can be a very big one. Photograph: Reuters


The Leaving Certificate is now over or finishing up for this year’s students and a summer of rest and relaxation beckons. Before you head off into the sunshine, spare a thought for the moment in late August when you log on to the CAO website to see what course you may have just been offered.

Will you get the points for your first choice or will you have to take one of the courses further down your list, which is the offer you have just received?

Will you accept your first choice on your level six/seven list instead, and spend an extra year securing the degree course, which is your first choice at level 8?

The answers to all these questions presuppose that you have researched all of your CAO options thoroughly, and have selected up to 20 options which are now listed in your order of preference.

If there is any doubt in your mind as to the quality of your CAO application, or the degree to which you have researched every choice you have listed, now is the time to rectify that omission, before you head for a well-earned break.

The price of failure to do this now before the CAO change of mind closes at 5.15pm on July 1st can be a very big one.

If you end up accepting a course that is not appropriate for you, whether it is because the curricular content is not to your liking (perhaps you did not the course content on, or because you end up realising that you have just selected a course you have no interest in, you may want to drop out during the year, or you may fail your exams.

Fees of €6,500
If either one of these happens and you decide to return to college the following year in another course, you will again have to pay the registration fee, plus the course fee which the Department of Education and Skills will pay the college on your behalf this year.

The HEA, on behalf of the DES will only pay once on your behalf, for every year of an approved course.

If you end up repeating a year you pay, which could cost you a further €4,000, bringing your fee total for your repeat first year to at least €6,500.

For many families today, this is way beyond their resources, especially when you factor in the living costs of college.

Even if you choose a course in a private college next year, and leave it to follow one in a State-funded college the year afterwards, you will still have to pay the full fees, as fees paid to private colleges are tax-deductible at 20 per cent and as such are treated in the same way as State-funded places, even if you do not claim the tax relief.

Crucially, if you are a mature applicant or have already completed your Leaving Certificate or have requested a deferral of your place, you may receive an offer of a CAO place any time after July 4th.

If you get any offer from the CAO and do not accept the place within the specified time (one week) your offer lapses and you cannot retrieve it.

So it is in your interests now to go back over your initial CAO course selection.

For the thousands of students who have as yet to select any course – and that is perfectly OK and within the CAO rules, so long as they enter their course choices before the July 1st deadline – now is the time to act.

Even if you are perfectly happy with your original choices, it is wise to review them at this stage. Courses are discontinued all the time, and new courses are added by colleges to the CAO system.

For example Trinity College Dublin has just launched a new programme, TR030 Catholic theological studies this year, which most applicants will never have heard of, and may therefore have a lower entry points requirement in 2013 than it may in the future. There are dozens of such courses on offer at the moment, which were not in existence when the CAO printed its handbook last summer. Explore them now.

Between now and July 1st, log on to your account on the CAO website, see what courses you have listed and in what order you have them. Study the full course content of each year’s lectures, for all the courses you have listed, and the progression opportunities of each course to employment or postgraduate opportunities on the website.

Entry requirements
Make sure you meet the entry requirements of the course through having taken the required subjects at the appropriate level in your Leaving Certificate.

You should also enter your discipline or area of interest into the course search field on Qualifax. ie, to see if there are any new courses available, or ones you missed out on during your initial search.

When you have your entire research completed, list your final course choices in the order you actually want them, allowing for all possible results in your Leaving Certificate. You have up to 20 choices: use them.

Remember that the work you put in over the next few days will pay dividends when you turn on the computer and log on to the CAO site on that fateful Monday in August.

Before you finalise your choices, discuss them with your parents and your guidance counsellor, in person or over the phone. If you contact your school, the guidance counsellor will probably be happy to meet you, or at least discuss your choices by phone if they are away.

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