I’m worried CAO points will go through the roof this year. What are my options?
Ask Brian: All signs are that CAO points will not be returning to 2019 levels anytime soon
There are now 80,000 applicants seeking places through the CAO in 2021, which is an additional 6,000 applicants in 2020 numbers. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
I sat the Leaving Cert in 2019 and took a year out as I did not feel ready for college. I applied in 2020, but did not get a suitable offer as points for my top courses had all increased. I have applied again this year, but am nervous my 2019 points will not secure me one of my top choices.
You represent the biggest cohort of those for whom the 2020 Leaving Cert calculated grades system failed.
Even though 2,245 additional places were created by Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris in 2020, and a similar number of additional places are planned for 2021, it appears that CAO points will not be returning to 2019 levels anytime soon.
If we end up with an calculated grades-style process again in 2021, some teachers’ assessment of their student’s ability may be more generous
There are now 80,000 applicants seeking places through the CAO in 2021, which is an additional 6,000 applicants to 2020 numbers.
This is likely driven by a combination of demographic factors, deferrals , an increase in mature applications and deferrals.
If we end up with an calculated grades-style process again in 2021, some teachers’ assessment of their student’s ability may be more generous than what they would have achieved through the written Leaving Cert, resulting in significant grade inflation.
That’s why CAO points reached a record high last year with 70 per cent of courses jumping significantly. (The points increases would have been more dramatic had Harris not added in additional places.)
I understand that the last thing you want to consider is waiting another year to secure your CAO place
I would be concerned that CAO points requirements may increase again in 2021. Obviously, the department will have to devise an alternate standardisation process to cut back excess grades. Otherwise, CAO points requirements will rocket this year. If as a result of all of the above you don’t get a suitable CAO offer this year, it may be time to consider alternative options.
Thousands of Irish students have sought and accepted places on degree programmes taught through English in continental universities where CAO points are not a factor in determining admission.
In most cases, once you have met the programme requirements, you will receive an offer. It might be useful for you to explore whether the courses you are interested in are currently available (check out eunicas.ie).
Another alternative for you may be to consider seeking a reserved further education (FE) place through a PLC programme in 2021.
I understand that the last thing you want to consider is waiting another year to secure your CAO place, but colleges have come to realise that FE graduates thrive in their courses and are less likely to drop out.
This may be the only way to bypass high CAO points requirements, as up to 20 per cent of places on many courses are now reserved for PLC graduates. Details of all your local PLC colleges and courses are available on qualifax.ie. Applications for all PLC programmes are directly to each college through their websites.
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