Students feel the pressure when filling out CAO forms

Applicants say they can’t decide what to study and have to make big career decisions

The survey of 854 students around the country, organised by Griffith College, found that lack of career guidance and difficulties comparing courses and colleges were big obstacles. Photograph: Getty Images

The survey of 854 students around the country, organised by Griffith College, found that lack of career guidance and difficulties comparing courses and colleges were big obstacles. Photograph: Getty Images

 

One in every two Leaving Cert students surveyed in a recent poll say they feel under acute pressure to make big career decisions when filling out their Central Applications Office (CAO) forms.

That is the finding of a survey of more than 850 students from across the State who took part in a poll organised by Griffith College.

Others said not knowing what to do was a big obstacle (17 per cent), followed by a lack of careers advice at school (14 per cent) and difficulties comparing courses and colleges (14 per cent).

Most respondents said they picked their course based on the career they thought they would like or their favourite subjects in school.

The least popular factors, the research found, included advice from family and whether their friends were going to the same college.

The results also indicate that significant numbers of students are prepared to repeat their exams if they do not secure the points they need for a degree course, rather than opting for further education or training.

Poor status

The finding appears to reflect a wider issue over the poor status of the further education and training sector in the eyes of many students and parents.

The top advice respondents would give to students applying through the CAO this year was put the course you really want to do first (41 per cent), do your research (34 per cent) and visit colleges in advance/attend open days (16 per cent).

In all, a total of 854 students from colleges around the country took part in the survey. Most had completed their CAO application last year.

Guidance counsellors have advised students to register with the CAO (www.cao.ie) in advance of the normal closing date for applications on February 1st.

However, they can change their course choices until as late as June under the “change of mind” process online.

Applicants can avail of a discounted €25 fee if they register by January 20th, after which the fee increases.

Course preferences

Over the coming months tens of thousands of students will register their course preferences with the CAO.

Last year a record number of CAO applicants – some 80,877 – sought college places this year.

The growth areas reflected sectors of the economy that are recovering as students flock to courses where most jobs growth is forecast, such as science and engineering.

A similar proportion of students is expected to apply this year and career experts say demand is likely to continue in similar areas.

By contrast, points fells to a new low for many arts courses as students questioned the value of these degrees.

Despite the decrease in applications, arts was by far the most popular area of study, with 16,000 college applicants listing it as their first choice.