My daughter plumped for single course in CAO application. Is this risky?

Ask Brian: I strongly encourage all applicants to have a wide list of possible courses

My daughter is anxiously awaiting the outcome of her Leaving Cert “calculated grades” and has her mind set firmly on one course offered in NUI Galway. She has refused to consider listing any other programmes. I’m worried that if she misses out she’ll be left with nothing. Can you advise?

Its not unusual for a student to fixate on a single course and refuse to look beyond it. Sadly, many CAO applicants each year who take this option find themselves with no offer in August.

They can then re-apply to the CAO for one of the available places on other courses that did not fill in the initial round of offers, but that would give her a far smaller range of choices than she still has today.

Thankfully, she still has until 5.15pm tomorrow, Wednesday July 1st, to amend her CAO application to add up to 19 additional programmes in order of preference; they include nine further programmes at level eight and 10 at level six/seven.


To broaden her horizons, I'd suggest researching additional courses on, an information portal for school-leavers for both further education and higher education programmes.

As well as checking details of all undergraduate courses, you can also review the entire database of post graduate options, which might be worth considering in three to four year’s time.

If your daughter succeeds in getting her first choice course, then adding programmes will have no negative consequences

As importantly as are her CAO choices are, she should also review the full list of further education courses on Qualifax. Many students who have the option to progress directly to college after the Leaving Cert choose to spend a year consolidating their knowledge in their particular field or interest, or developing a portfolio of work to support a CAO application for a place on a restricted application course.

Recent research shows that students progressing to third level following the completion of a level five further education award have better outcomes and lower drop-out rates that do those who go directly to college from school.

I would strongly encourage all CAO applicants who have applied for a single programme, or a small list of courses which traditionally require high points, to increase their chances of having a positive experience in August by amending their applications to to add a wider list of courses.

If your daughter succeeds in getting her first choice course, then adding programmes will have no negative consequences. If not, she can for the next 24 hours control what happens next.

Curiously, the new Programme for Government commits to “examining the creation of a single-information portal for school-leavers for both Further Education and Higher Education programmes of study”.

Given that the department of education funded the creation of more than 15 years ago, it is curious that the incoming government has committed to examining its creation. At least that’s one goal which can be crossed off their list before they even get started.