No CAO offer after the second round? You still have options

There are other routes to third level if you didn’t get your choice of college offer

There are plenty of opportunities for young students who did not get their course offer of choice. Photograph: Getty Images

There are plenty of opportunities for young students who did not get their course offer of choice. Photograph: Getty Images


This morning brings a level of certainty to many college applicants who were considering the CAO process as one of their options to progress their educational journey in the coming academic year.

The 2,000 places offered across all colleges and disciplines mark, to all intents and purposes, the end of this year’s offer season.

There will be a trickle of offers weekly, over the next six weeks, as some students who have accepted places change their mind prior to registration.

These students may feel, following a detailed consideration of the course they were offered and then initially accepted, that the course is not for them, or they may not be able to afford to take the place or find affordable accommodation.

Some students will also apply for one of the remaining places listed on the “available places” list on the CAO website, and colleges will continue to fill these course places through further offers.

Also, some calculation errors will be discovered in the tots on the front cover of exam answer booklets this weekend during script viewing, and some new offers will be issued based on these discoveries.

In mid-October, up to 2,000 grade upgrades in Leaving Cert papers out of the 10,000 remarked will bring about a further round of offers to those who failed to secure a place this morning, or who will start on a lower choice course in the weeks ahead, and will be offered a course higher up on their order of preference, following an upgrade and additional points.

At that point they may opt to stay with the course they are about to start, transfer over to the new course offered or, if they feel that they have missed too much lecture content by that stage, accept the new offer and defer starting into it until September 2017.

But, for the majority of young people and adults who are considering appropriate routes to further their education and career progression, who have not secured – or who never sought in the first place – a satisfactory offer in this second round, it is now time to make decisions about alternative options outside the CAO.

Some of those options are:

Further education

For many, further education is by far a preferable option to a CAO course at this stage in their educational journey.

Second-level education demands competency across a range of subjects, which many students would not necessarily choose if they had the option to do so.

Many of these students perform relatively modestly in their Leaving Cert as a result, but get good grades in one or two subjects in which they excel.

They may have enough CAO points to get into a number of “Any Qualified Applicant” (AQA) courses listed in this supplement, and may be tempted to apply for them if they are listed on the CAO “Available Places” list.

I would suggest, to such students, that they should resist the temptation to seek a place on such courses, unless you genuinely feel they suit your needs and that you feel confident in your ability to meet the challenges the course presents.

Far more preferable may be the option of taking a Post Leaving Cert (PLC) course in one of the areas you excelled at in the Leaving Cert.

PLC programmes comprise of eight modules in your area of interest.

They are taught in small class groups, of less than 30, and your teachers get to know you very well over the course of the year and assist you in compiling your portfolio work, as continuous assessment is a key part of the PLC sector.

At the end of the year, you can present your PLC qualification as your entry route to a CAO course who want to study.

The links between PLC courses and CAO programmes are all available on, and the details of all courses are on

All further education (FE) colleges are still taking enrolments and students can apply on college websites.

Classes start in earlyto mid-September, so there is plenty of time for you to seek a place over the coming week.

Many popular courses will have waiting lists, so act now if you want to secure your place.


Many young people and parents are not aware of the high-quality, flexible and affordable options that are available to them outside of the CAO process, such as apprenticeships, professional qualifications, management training and “earn as you learn” programmes.

While it may be true that, as parents, we want our children to gain the best education possible – the reality is that many of these alternative programmes offer what a third-level course cannot; invaluable skills that are globally transferable, the opportunity to qualify in a chosen field while working with a local business or for a larger corporate sector firm, and earning certificates, diplomas and honours degree qualifications while gaining vital life and career experience, in tandem with earing a salary.

Furthermore, many of these programmes can be funded by your employer and include built-in study and exam leave and, in some cases, are offered on a part-time basis, allowing sustainable progression.

The ACCA, for example, offers the opportunity to undertake an “earn as you learn” programme, which is designed to best educate and prepare each student in their career in finance and accounting.

Many of our top-class young accountants enter the world of work straight out of school and embark on a degree in this way, and subsequently go on to lead incredibly successful careers, either within their own private practice, or within larger and high-profile organisations.

With a bit of extra drive and the enthusiasm to succeed, it is possible to achieve a third-level degree in as short as three years, while working your way up the career ladder.

The Irish Defence Forces launched The Air Corps Trainee Military Aircraft Technician on Tuesday, August 9th, 2016.

Successful candidates will graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering Technology in Military Aviation Technology Level 7 (Tech), accredited by the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). Closing date for applications is September 4th, 2016. Applicants must at least 18 years of age, and under 21 years of age, on this date.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) have also launched a new website ( dedicated to promoting the opportunities available to young people who take up apprenticeships and the careers that are available in the construction sector.

The Insurance Institute recently launched the Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship, a Level 8 degree “earn and learn” apprenticeship programme aimed at school leavers, graduates and career changers.

Two apprenticeships have recently been validated by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) – the Bachelor of Engineering (industrial electrical engineering) at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT).

It is an add-on, designed for those who are already qualified electricians and the Insurance Institute course in association Sligo IT.

Accounting Technician Ireland, Ireland’s leading body for Accounting Technicians, is partnering with five Colleges of Further Education to launch the first ever Accounting Technician Apprenticeship programme in September.

It’s a two-year programme for both school leavers and mature students, where apprentices work four days in an accountancy practice and study one day in one of the following colleges: Blackrock, Bray, Rathmines, and Monaghan Institutes of Further Education, and Cork College of Commerce.

ATI have been successfully running this programme in Northern Ireland for the last two years.

The progress of apprentices is monitored by mentors in both work and college.

Students who successfully complete the apprenticeship programme will then have an opportunity to progress to Chartered Accountancy after just two years.

For further information visit

Private colleges

The private education sector still has a wide range of courses available, either through vacant places on the CAO or by direct application to the college.

Fees are €4,000-€7,000 and tax relief of €400 may be claimed.

Dublin Business School offers a variety of programmes, Griffith College has a number of campuses in Ireland and a number of other specialist colleges locally and nationally have a range of programmes still on offer.

Study in Europe

Application deadlines have passed for many continental European degrees, taught through English in public universities which feature in the top 200 colleges in international rankings.

However, applications are still open for a range of courses for entry this September or starting in January/February, particularly in the Netherlands. Check out what is available on

Studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity for many young people, but a level of maturity is a prerequisite to successfully navigate through the three or four years of any degree programme.

European universities are relatively easy to get into, but completing first year can be a challenge, so intensive commitment to the programme is a given, if you want to make it into second year.

Repeating the Leaving Cert

This is an option if you genuinely believe a further year of study will get you a much improved result in August 2017.

You need to ask: what will change within me that will bring that improvement about?

You can repeat in the public school system in your local school, or through a college managed by the Education Training Board (ETB), or through private providers such as the Institute of Education in Dublin; Bruce College in Cork; the Limerick Tutorial Centre in Limerick, or Yeats College in Galway.

Gap year

There are many creative ways to take a year out before you decide what you want to study at third level.

They including volunteering at home or abroad, or getting a job for a year to experience the hard reality of life on the bottom rung of the career ladder.