Thousands of college applicants across the country logged into the Central Applications Office (CAO) website on Thursday afternoon to find out whether they were successful in their college application.
Many will have already responded to accept their place on a full-time undergraduate course and will be looking forward to the next step as they prepare for college in a few weeks’ time. Others may need to pause and take some time to consider their options before deciding on the next course of action.
Those who did not receive their preferred choice have other options to consider. They may have been offered a course further down their CAO list, they could be offered a place during later CAO rounds, and some places will become available through the CAO’s “available places” list. Or they might consider taking another approach and seek out a further education course, which could provide a pathway into a degree course at a later date.
The Irish Times’ CAO help desk will operate today until 7pm and on Saturday at 10am-12pm. Specialist guidance counsellors Brian Howard and Deirdre Garrett will be available to help with any queries you may have about your CAO offer or about other options that you may wish to consider.
Starting with your CAO offer, the following are some steps you might take as you look forward to the next stage of your education.
1 Don’t miss the deadline
You should have read the CAO handbook by now and taken note of the important deadlines and restrictions that may apply to you or your course. If you received the offer you had hoped for, you have reviewed your options and are happy to accept your allocated course, then the process is straightforward. If you accept your offer you will receive an acknowledgment email, and you can check that your acceptance has been recorded on the My Application facility. Note: round one acceptances must be submitted by 3pm on September 14th.
2 Other choices
The choices you listed on your CAO form should approximate your interests and accepting a lower-preference course now will not prevent you from receiving an offer of a course higher up on your list in a later round. If you don’t accept an offer, however, you run the risk of not receiving any other offers in later rounds. Note: round two offers will be made available online on September 19th from 10am and acceptances must be submitted by 3pm two days later, on September 21st.
3 Other options
Perhaps you didn’t get any of the choices you listed on your CAO application form or have had a late change of mind. There are plenty of other routes that you can take. Some 30,000 places are filled annually in further education colleges throughout the country. While these have been added to this year as part of the Government response to the need for additional places, the high number of applicants may also have an impact.
Apprenticeships offer an opportunity to earn while you learn, while many further education courses provide high-level tuition and on-the-job experience, with plenty offering an alternative route to attaining a degree in college. Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is the national agency responsible for qualifications and quality assurance in further education and training and higher education. Details of courses on offer are available through QQI’s qualifax.ie website.
4 Familiarise yourself with the campus
If you are accepting the offer you receive in the first round, you should visit the campus, if you can, to get a feel for it. While institutions are still observing some pandemic-related measures, college life should be somewhat similar to life pre-Covid. A lot of work has gone into ensuring that students have the best possible experience and third-level institutions have invested heavily in developing online and remote teaching programmes. In most cases, lectures will be delivered in person but remote access is likely to feature in some courses. Communication is key to college and you will have plenty of opportunities to meet new people, join college societies and participate in college life. Most institutions will provide tours and induction days. Find out about these and attend if possible.
5 Accommodation options
The hunt for student accommodation has always been one of the more challenging aspects to the start of the academic year. This year it will be acute. With most colleges holding lectures partly or fully online over the last two years there was less of a need to be present on campus as often. The absence of international students also helped ease pressure on an already overheated market (the signs have been there for some time!). If you need to find somewhere to live during term, your first port of call should be the college. Your college and students’ union should also have a list of nearby rooms and digs. Privately-run student residences are also an option but can be expensive. Be sure to check your lease: some private accommodation can exceed the student academic year. Note: All property providers have to be registered so ask to see the property service provider’s licence and note the licence number before checking it against the Register of Licensed Property Services Providers.
6 Defer for a year
If you are happy with the course you were offered but wish to postpone it for a year before immersing yourself in college life, then you will need to act immediately. Contact the admissions office of the university or college in question. Give your name as it appears on your CAO application, quote your CAO application number and the course code of the offer you wish to defer, and set out why you wish to do so. Note: there is no guarantee that an application for deferral will be granted.
7 Don’t panic
No matter what you want to do at this juncture, there are plenty of options. If you are unsure, log into The Irish Times’ CAO help desk today or over the coming days and ask our guidance counsellors about your options. The help desk will operate at irishtimes.com/education from midday until 7pm on Friday and at 10am-12pm on Saturday to answer questions about the CAO process and college applications.