Time to make up or change your mind

What do you really want to study in college? This is the time to reassess your CAO options


The Leaving Certificate is now over or finishing up for this year’s students and two months of rest – or summer work – beckon. Before you head off into the sunshine, spare a thought for that moment on August 18th when you log on to the CAO website to see what course/courses you may be offered.

Considering between two CAO offers

Will you get the points for your first choice or will you be offered one of the courses further down your list? Will you accept your first choice on your level six/seven list instead, and spend an extra year securing the degree course, which is your first choice at level eight?

The answers to all these questions presuppose you have researched all of your CAO options thoroughly, and have selected up to 20 choices which are now listed in your order of preference.

If there is any doubt in your mind as to the quality of your CAO application, or how you have researched each choice you have listed, now is the time to rectify things, before you head for a well-earned break.

Don’t select courses without thorough research. The price of failure to do this now – before the CAO change of mind closes at 5.15pm on July 1st – can be a very big one.

If you end up accepting a course that is not right for you, whether because the curriculum is not to your liking, you did not research the course content thoroughly, or because you end up realising that you have selected a course you have no interest in, you may end up dropping out during the academic year, or you may fail your exams.

If either of these eventualities happens, and you decide to return to college the following year on another course, you will again have to pay the registration fee of €3,000 in 2015.

You will also have to fork out the course fee of at least €4,000 which the Department of Education and Skills will pay the college on your behalf this year.

The HEA, on behalf of the State, will only pay course fees once for every year of an approved course. If you end up repeating a year, you pay. This extra €4,000 would bring your fee total for your repeat first year to at least €7,000. For many families today, this is way beyond their resources, especially when you factor in the living costs of college.

Even if you choose a course in a private college next year, and then leave it to follow one in a State-funded college the following year, you will still have to pay the full fees.

Fees paid to private colleges are tax-deductible at 20 per cent and as such are treated in the same way as State-funded places, even if you do not claim the tax relief.

Mature students, deferrals

Some advice for those who already have a Leaving Cert result: if you are a mature applicant, have already completed your Leaving Cert or have requested a deferral of your place, you may receive an offer of a CAO place any time after July 4th.

If you get any offer from the CAO and do not accept the place within one week, your offer lapses and you cannot retrieve it. So it is in your interest now to go back over your initial CAO course selection.

You may have made no subject choices in January. For the thousands of students who have as yet to select any course – which is perfectly okay and within the CAO rules, so long as they enter their choices before the July 1st deadline – now is the time to act.

Even if you are perfectly happy with your original choices, it is wise to review them at this stage. Courses are discontinued all the time, and new courses added by colleges on the CAO system. There are dozens of courses on offer at the moment which were not in existence when the CAO printed its handbook last summer. Explore them now.

Between now and July 1st, log on to your account on the CAO website, see what courses you have listed, and in what order. Study the full course content of each year’s lectures, for all the courses you have listed, and the progression opportunities of each course to employment or postgraduate opportunities, on the website qualifax.ie.

Things to check

Make sure you meet the entry requirements of the course

and have taken the required subjects at the appropriate level in your Leaving Cert.

You should also enter your discipline or area of interest into the course search field on qualifax.ie, to see if there are any new courses available, or ones you missed during your initial search.

When you have finished your research, list your final course choices in the order you actually want them, allowing for all possible results in your Leaving Cert. You have up to 20 choices: use them.

And don’t act without consulting the key adults in your life. Remember that the work you put in over the next few days will pay dividends when you turn on the computer and log on to the CAO site on Monday, August 18th. Before you finalise your choices, discuss them with your parents and your guidance counsellor in person or over the phone.

If you contact your school, the guidance counsellor will probably be happy to meet you, or at least discuss your choices by phone if they are away.

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