Brian Mooney: Post-Leaving Cert courses are a valuable alternative to CAO system
Further Education route can suit students who struggle to secure high points
First round: students check the CAO website as offers are published. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Even though most of the focus for college is on the CAO system, there are alternative career paths. The further education (FE) sector has opportunities for students who may not secure the points they want through the CAO, but who may do very well in a post- Leaving Cert (PLC) course in the area they want to study.
If students get distinctions in all eight modules of a PLC programme, they have a good chance of securing a reserved place in their preferred CAO course for 2017.
In some areas, such as nursing, there are a very small number of CAO places for such students, so many successful PLC students end up in British nursing programmes. (Up to 500 Irish students choose this option to qualify as nurses each year.)
Places are offered on a first- come, first-served basis in most cases and may be impossible to secure later in the year.
If, however, you are interested in getting a place through the CAO system for a course in an Irish university, institute of technology, teacher-training college or private college, now is the time to act.
Register your intention to seek a college place through the CAO’s website (www.cao.ie) and be prepared to pay a €25 charge by credit or debit card. You don’t need to know what courses you want to study yet; you can amend your course choices up until the July 1st final deadline.
The exception is for courses listed as “restricted” in the CAO handbook . You need to apply for these by February 1st.
Between February 5th and March 1st, any CAO applicant may change a restricted course choice for a fee of €10.
You may use the change-of- mind facility between May 5th and July 1st to make any changes, at no financial charge.
Before the end of May, all applicants will be sent a statement of application record as a final acknowledgment and to verify that all information has been recorded accurately.
If it does not arrive by June 1st, contact the CAO immediately. Accompanying this statement will be a change-of- mind form, which you can use up to the closing date, 5.15pm on July 1st.