CAO 2018: What to do if you don’t receive an offer

Progression to college directly from school is not the only route

Whether you receive the offer you want from the CAO or are having second thoughts about the course you chose, it is worth noting that further education has some excellent options for Leaving Cert students who do not receive a CAO offer to their liking.

Further education (FE) colleges are still taking enrolments and students can go on to any college website to apply online. These routes from school into adult life provide opportunities for tens of thousands of young and not so young learners every year to develop their abilities and skills, and consequentially their sense of self-worth and personal self-confidence.

Classes start in early to mid-September, so there is plenty of time to find a course. Some colleges hold open days over the coming week, so check out your local colleges’ websites.

Assessment and certification for FE courses is based on both work during the year and exams at the end and the vast majority of FE courses offer progression back into a CAO course through reserved places.


An example of this progression is the FE college in Blackrock (BFEI) which offers a two-year level 6 advanced certificate in business.

On successful completion students gain advanced entry to the second year of the level 7 bachelor of business in enterprise at the nearby Institute of Art Design and Technology (IADT), Dún Laoghaire.

There are similar arrangements for its certificate in creative multimedia course. Also at BFEI is a one-year level five applied psychology course.

Graduates can go on to second year of a three-year honours BA counselling and psychology at the University of Wales.

As with many FE colleges, BFEI offers a one-year level 5 computer science course. Graduates can apply through CAO for degree courses in UCD, DIT, IT Tallaght and ITB, Blanchardstown.

In the City of Dublin Education Training Board (CDETB) area, Rathmines College has a long tradition in business, marketing, accounting, media, office administration and computer programming.

It also runs a liberal arts access course where students can move to arts in UCD and Maynooth University.

Courses are at level 5 and 6, with the latter giving direct advanced entry to second year of degree programmes in various colleges.

One interesting point to bear in mind is that someone wishing to get an accounting qualification doesn’t have to do a business degree first.

A primary degree is not a prerequisite for entry to professional accounting. Rathmines students can take an ACCA diploma in accounting and business with three higher level Cs plus two O6 grades at ordinary level in the Leaving Cert.

After completing this programme and a research project, student get a BSc in accounting from Oxford Brooks University in the UK.

For students without these grades, there are options through the Accounting Technician of Ireland and the Certified Accounting Technician courses in Rathmines, which both provide access through the professional accounting route.

Rathmines also has employment orientated programmes in medical and legal administration, with almost guaranteed employment. The fees in Rathmines College are €460, or €210 with a medical card.

Private colleges

The private education sector has a wide range of courses still available, either through vacant places on the CAO or by direct application to the college. Fees are about €5,000-€6,000 and tax relief of €400 can be claimed.

Given the increase in the points for law degrees, disappointed students might consider Griffith College.

Its programme involves students in clinical practice through the college’s Innocent Project which reviews cases where miscarriages of justice may have occurred.

Recently, work by Griffith law students participating in the Griffith College-based Irish Innocence Project helped lead to the murder conviction of Harry Gleeson, who was executed in the 1940s, being overturned.

Griffith also offers a film degree covering direction, production and editing of film and TV, and a four-year computer science degree with a six-month work placement, which has virtually a full employment record.

Dublin Business School (DBS) has a range of level 8 degrees which may be attractive to those disappointed by the rise in CAO points. These programmes include a BSc in computing, BA in psychology, and a BA in business accounting and finance.

Study through English in Europe

Although the application deadlines have passed for many continental European degrees , they are still open for a wide range of courses for entry this September, particularly in the Netherlands. A wide selection of these programmes is on, together with application deadlines and fees. Studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity, but I would hesitate if I was yet to celebrate my 18th birthday. European universities are relatively easy to get into, but successfully completing first year can be a real challenge, so constant and intensive commitment to the programme is essential if you want to make it into second year.

Repeat Leaving Cert courses

Repeating the Leaving Cert is not for everybody. The numbers doing so in publicly funded schools have dropped by nearly 50 per cent in the past five years.

You can repeat in the public school system, for example at the CDETB in Rathmines, Plunket, Pearse and Ringsend colleges.

There are also private providers such as the Institute of Education in Dublin, Bruce College in Cork, the Tutorial in Limerick and Yeats College in Galway.

If you are considering repeating, unless you had a specific reason why you missed a significant amount of time in school over the past year or so, there needs to be a major change in your approach to all aspects of study and exam preparation, if you are going to improve on your result from this year. As the saying goes, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.

Take a year out

Not everybody is ready to go directly to college after the Leaving Cert, particularly if they are under 18. If so, do not take a college course just to be with your friends or to feel part of the group.

There are many creative ways to spend a year, including volunteering at home or abroad, while you figure out what you really want to study in college. Step back and reflect at leisure. It’s far better than charging in and dropping out after a few months.

Details of every FE course on offer in Ireland are available through the website.

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney is a guidance counsellor and education columnist. He contributes education articles to The Irish Times