Ask Brian: My daughter is stressed and unsure of her CAO choices. What should she do?

There is plenty of time after the exams to finalise options for third-level study

Forget about course choices until after the Leaving Cert. There will be plenty of time to finalise college options after the exams. Photo: iStock

Forget about course choices until after the Leaving Cert. There will be plenty of time to finalise college options after the exams. Photo: iStock


Question: My daughter made her CAO course choices in January and seemed happy with them. Now, she seems totally unsure of what she wants to do in college. I am concerned that her distress over this issue will affect her performance in her exams. Any advice?

Answer: My most important piece of advice to her is to forget completely about what comes after the Leaving Cert and focus her entire energy on preparing for the exams in four weeks’ time.

Leaving school after 14 years can be a stressful time for all Leaving Cert students and, as every teacher will attest, a silence descends on sixth years as the month of May unfolds.

Students proceed through the various school leaving events, prize giving evenings, religious ceremonies, school leaving days which mark this momentous change in their lives.

It can be difficult for students to maintain a structured study regime with all the distractions associated with school leaving. To attempt to finalise CAO choice decisions while under this level of stress is not a good idea.

The CAO’s “change of mind” service – which operates from May 5th to July 1st – allows students plenty of time to revisit their choices..

Thankfully, there is no limit to the number of changes a student can make online to their CAO application over the next eight weeks.

The only date that matters is the deadline which expires at 5.15 pm on Saturday July 1st next. That is set in stone and cannot be changed in any way after that date.

The options which will be open to your daughter in August are totally dependent on her performance in the Leaving Cert papers. Only when she has achieved her maximum performance across all her subjects, should she turn her mind to what comes next in her life.

The Higher Education Authority has recently released the progression rates for the class of 2014 which show worryingly high rates of drop-out among students in certain courses.

They can cost parents substantial sums of €8,000 and upwards to take a second first year in another degree programme. Neither you nor your daughter want to find yourself in that situation this time next year.

The CAO, in its wisdom, offers students a period of reflection of a minimum of a week after the final Leaving Cert paper, to sit back and consider the choices and options available to them in the autumn.

Your daughter should sit down at that stage and ask herself the simple question, as to what combination of lecture content and college environment will sustain her interest through the long dreary months of November to March next year?

She has a full week to visit the colleges and departments in question, meet with or talk on the phone with her guidance counsellor, discuss them with you, her parents, and by the end of June submit her final course choices. After that a well-earned rest beacons.