CAO applications: Eight things you need to know
CAO countdown: Research your options thoroughly – and then trust your instincts
Trust your instincts, don’t be overinfluenced by the plans of others – particularly your friends’ plans. You will make lots of new friends, wherever and whatever you end up studying. Photograph: Getty Images
1. Register now – - and save money If you hope start an undergraduate college course in Ireland next September , you need to register your application with the Central Applications Office (cao.ie) by 5.15pm on Sunday , January 20th. To do not do so is simply throwing money away. After this, the discounted fee jumps up from €30 to €45. The normal registration deadline for most applications is February 1st.
2. Look out for “restricted” courses
If you are applying for a course listed as “restricted” in the CAO handbook you must complete your courses applications for those programmes by February 1st. These courses often include a portfolio of work or an interview.
(This date applies to school-leavers or those aged over 23. However, applicants under 23 do not need to enter or finalise their non-restricted course choices until July 1st, if they are still considering their course choice options.)
2. Explore all options – even if you know what you want to do
If you want to do a course leading to a specific occupation – such as primary school teacher, nurse, doctor, architect – you need to explore all available programmes on offer which lead to a receiving recognised certification from the professional bodies in your field of interest. This, for example, could be the Teaching Council, An Bord Altranais, the Medical Council, etc.
List those you wish to apply for in your genuine order of interest, ensuring you are taking the required subjects, at the appropriate level in your Leaving Cert or other recognised examination.
3. Don’t focus on occupations – focus on course content
If you are applying for a college place for the coming year without a specific occupation in mind, but know that your interest is within a recognised field of study – such as science, business, liberal arts, languages, etc – then don’t worry about what occupation or role you might have.
We live in a world of fast-paced technological disruption. It can be foolhardy to assume that any occupation will be the same in a few years’ time.
Rather than focus on the occupation you hope to secure, focus exclusively on the specific course content of every programme on offer from course providers in your discipline.
Failure by students to carry out this basic task is by far the biggest reason for drop-out from college courses.
4. Research course modules thoroughly
Qualifax.ie is a great resource where you can research every detail of every element of every course. It is frustrating that many applicants continue to list courses on their CAO application without having seriously studied what modules are taught in each year of the course, how the programme is assessed, and what optional modules are available.
5. Mature, Hear or Dare applicant? Watch those dates
Mature applicants over 23 need to complete all sections of their application by February 1st, applicants for Hear and Dare need to complete the online part of their application by March 1st and ensure that all documentation is with the CAO in Galway by the April 1st deadline.
Those successful applicants who secure an offer in either the early July, early August, or main first round offers to school-leavers on Friday August 16th must accept their places before the published acceptance dates.
6. Third level isn’t the be-all and end-all
There have never been more opportunities for young people following the completion of their Leaving Cert.
Further education (FE) offers students with strong aptitudes in specific disciplines – such as science, engineering, IT – who may not have performed strongly in other Leaving Cert subjects the opportunity to progress directly into their desired course following a high performance in their PLC programme.
In UCD science last year, for example, 30 students made that transition, as did 10 in computer science.
Further education also offers students entry into high quality paid employment after one or two years’ study in a wide range of hands-on practical occupational areas, travel and tourism, fire and ambulance, and beauty.
Apprenticeship programmes are also offered in traditional craft areas and new sectors such as insurance, financial services, accounting and so on (apprentice.ie). There are also huge opportunities across every aspect of the construction industry for young people interested in pursuing a registered trade.
7. Europe may be worth considering
Thousands of Irish students are now securing places in EU universities in faculties and on courses that would be beyond their reach in Ireland due to the high CAO entry points. Details on all these programmes are available on www.eunicas.ie.
8. Trust your instincts
Trust your instincts, don’t be overinfluenced by the plans of others – particularly your friends’ plans. You will make lots of new friends, wherever and whatever you end up studying.
The central message is to consider all the options, research thoroughly every course you are considering applying for, apply across as wide a range of providers as you might consider accepting an offer from, and give yourself the widest set of options to consider when you make your final decision in August.