Helping you to make the most of your Leaving Cert


Tomorrow the silence in 800 second-level schools will once again be broken by the clamour of young voices. For many students it will be the last visit to their alma mater as they are calling to collect the envelopes which contain their Leaving Certificate results.

As screams and squeals rend the air, anxiety about half-forgotten essays and answers will turn to relief for most students. But each year an unfortunate few will be disappointed. All students, particularly this group, need to put the Leaving Cert in perspective.

Take a little time to think about it today. The Leaving Certificate is simply an assessment of how you performed in a particular set of exams on six or seven days last June. It is not an assessment of you, your life, your worth as a person or even your potential. If you do not do as well as you had hoped tomorrow it does not mean that you are a failure and you will never have a worthwhile career.

Many students set themselves extremely high targets and regard themselves as failures if they fall short. The average Leaving Cert does not equate to 500 points-plus; far from it. Those points are achieved by very few. You would be closer to the average mark if you divided the 500 by two.

The actual entry requirements set by third-level colleges are not astronomical either. The NUI matriculation standard is two Cs on higher-level papers and four Ds on ordinary-level papers. This totals up to 140 points. For the institutes of technology, the minimum standard required for most courses is five ordinary-level Ds. At five points for each D3 this adds up to 25 points.

So the majority of students meet the minimum entry requirements set by the colleges. If there were sufficient college places available for everyone who wanted one, this is all you would need to secure a place. What the colleges are saying is that this standard of education is sufficient to pursue third-level education.

The cut-off points that actually dictate whether you get a place or not are a function of supply and demand. They are not set by the colleges.

About half of the 65,000 students who sat the Leaving Cert will go on to third level and almost all applied to the CAO. As this accounts for the biggest block of school-leavers, there is a huge focus on places in the universities, colleges and institutes of technology.

But the remaining 32,000 or so students do not simply evaporate because they do not get a CAO offer. There are lots of other welltrodden routes which lead to worthwhile careers. For instance, there are 22,000 places sanctioned in the Post Leaving Certificate sector this year. This is 1,000 more places than last year.

These courses offer students vibrant, exciting options which are tailored directly to the jobs market. In addition, apprenticeships, nursing, the Defence Forces, CERT and Teagasc all offer opportunities for further education and training and, of course, some students will repeat their Leaving Cert and others will enter employment directly.

This column is designed to help you make the most of your Leaving Cert results and will detail opportunities, open days and CAO, PLC and other vacancies as they arise.

Direct applications

You thought it was all over (CAO closing date for applications was May 1st; last chance for change of mind was July 1st) but there's still time to apply for nine new third-level courses. These courses were approved late and, in most cases, you apply directly to the colleges concerned, not the CAO. The courses will be in the CAO system next year.

These and other courses were advertised during the summer in national and local newspapers. Late approval of courses means that students not only have to contend with the CAO system but they also have to keep an eye on newspapers over the summer. It is very likely that some interested students will have missed these advertisements. It is understandable that the colleges wish to go ahead with courses, even if they are approved late and, from the students' point of view, it provides more places. Why not have one central ad for late courses? This ad could run early in the week that the Leaving Cert results are published and should also be sent to guidance counsellors.

You can still apply for the following courses:

The National College of Ireland, Ranelagh, (formerly NCIR) has a new national certificate in computing (applications and support) which begins this September (NC102). Applications will be accepted, by the college admissions office, throughout August and September, until all 40 places are filled. The minimum Leaving Cert requirements are a grade D3 in maths, a language and three other subjects. Applicants will be interviewed. NCI's full-time day courses qualify for free fees and grants under the Higher Education Grants scheme.

Athlone Institute of Technology is accepting applications for a new national certificate in business studies in equine studies. The theoretical aspects of this course will be taught in Athlone IT while Gurteen Agricultural College in Co Tipperary will look after the practical side. The course begins on October 1st and the closing date for applications is September 1st. Applications to the Athlone IT's admissions office. You must have basic equine skills - British Horse Society, Level 2 or Pony Club C+ or equivalent or you may do an equine test. The college had two other directentry courses, a national diploma in mechatronics and a BSc in computer and software engineering but the closing date was August 1st.

Waterford Institute of Technology has three new directentry degrees: WD084 accounting; WD085 manufacturing systems; WD086 electronics. Officially, the closing date for entries was yesterday but the college will accept late applications if you apply immediately to the admissions office. There are specific subject requirements: for WD084, ordinary-level C in maths and English; for WD085 ordinary-level B in maths or higher-level C in science/technological subjects; for WD086 higher-level C in maths.

Cork Institute of Technology is offering two new courses, a BSc in software development with German (CR115) and a national certificate in construction in interior architectural technology (interior design) (CR053). The closing date for applications is 5.00 p.m. on August 27th. Apply to the college admissions office which will send you an information pack and an application form. The subject requirements for CR115 are an ordinary-level B in maths and a higher-level C in German.

Carlow Institute of Technology has a new four-year degree in computer networking (CW046). Minimum entry requirements are Leaving Certificate with grade D3 in two higher level papers and grade D3 in four ordinary-level papers. A pass in maths and English or Irish must be included. The course is available through the CAO vacant places procedure (no closing date). Further information from the college admissions office.

Dublin Institute of Technology will take applications for DT284, a diploma in industrial electronic systems, although the official closing date for applications was July 1st. Subject requirements are an ordinary-level B3 in maths, an ordinary-level D in English and three other subjects. Get in touch with the admissions office immediately.

NUI Galway: The closing date for direct application for the BEng in biomedical engineering was August 14th.

Special maths exams

Students applying for most ab-initio engineering degree courses need a C in higher-level maths. However, in three colleges there is a fall-back exam available for certain courses.

Students who did not achieve this grade in their Leaving Certificate can sit these exams in the NUI Galway, Athlone Institute of Technology and Dublin Institute of Technology. Success in this exam will be accepted as an alternative to the Leaving Certificate requirement but only for the courses specified in that particular college. These special maths exams may not be used for points purposes. Offers arising from success in these exams should be made in round two.

NUI Galway:

Students applying for NUIG's engineering courses may sit a special maths exam on August 21st. The application fee is £5 and applications must be with the college by 5 p.m. tomorrow. Inquiries should be directed to the admissions office at (091) 750437.

Dublin Institute of Technology:

Applicants for DIT's electrical/electronic engineering degree may apply for the college's special maths exam which will be held on August 26th in DIT Kevin Street. Applications should be made on or before Friday. There is a £5 fee. This is the last year that DIT will hold this exam as demand has fallen considerably since the new higher-level maths syllabus was introduced some years ago.

Athlone Institute of Technology:

Applicants for the college's polymer technology degree may sit a special maths exam early in September. To apply, contact Dr Gertrude Taggart at Athlone IT (0902) 24400. There is no fee for this exam.


The State tourism training agency, CERT, has increased places in some of its courses. There are still training places available in a number of areas, notably professional cookery, hospitality skills, hotel reception, bar and restaurant. College Places will return to this topic later.

A number of open days have been organised when potential students for this year's courses can walk in, have a chat or on-the-spot interview. Students will get results of these interviews within two to three working days and could start college this autumn. CERT has a careers hotline at 1850 256256.

Open day list:

Dublin: CERT House, Amiens Street, Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Killarney: The International Hotel, August 26th, 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cork: Jury's Inn, August 27th, 9.30 a.m.5 p.m.

Galway: Great Southern, Eyre Square, August 28th, 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Limerick: The Glentworth Hotel, August 28th, 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.