Investigate each Course’s Content
Student’s, in order to rank your courses in a way that suits you best, choose ones you really want to do (not necessarily the ones your friends are doing or ones your parents want you to go into). Choose for you and no one else. When choosing a course, be sure to examine closely the module descriptor associated with it. This tells you the exact layout of the course, how many credits each module has, how the exams are assessed, how many hours you will spend on each module, how the learning will take place and exactly what you will learn about. Investigate the exact modules you will be studying for each potential course. This is my most important piece of advice. You don’t want to be heading into the winter thinking ‘I am not interested at all in any of this stuff’ #nightmare.
The CAO is not the Only Show in Town
If you have not applied to the CAO or do not receive a CAO offer, there are other options. You should go on the SOLAS website (solas.ie) now to investigate further education alternatives. One could be: Further learning with your local Education and Training Board (ETB); for example, Louth & Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB). Many ETB’s offer Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses which will give you a Level 5 or Level 6 qualification, just below what you would come out with via the CAO system. These courses are one or two years in duration and often involve practical work experience with companies. The fees for these courses tend to be lower than your standard CAO courses and grants are available in many cases also. You can progress thereafter to a level 6, 7 or 8 course.
PLC courses allow you to see if an area of study or work may suit you. Some courses in third level set aside a quota of PLC (QQI) students to fill course places each year. If you achieve the required results in your chosen PLC course, a third level institution may accept you onto one of their courses. You should verify this will be the case beforehand by ringing up the college and asking them about accessing a specific course via the PLC route. You can find the full list of PLC courses on www.fetchcourses.ie or contact the Further Education College directly. Examples of PLC courses that students regularly progress further from are Pre-Nursing, and ICT. For each CAO course, you will also be able to view (on cao.ie) what PLC requirements will get you a place on a given CAO course. This is well worth researching over the next few weeks to cover your bases.
To enhance your skills in a certain area, you can go also down the apprenticeship training route by checking out www.apprenticeship.ie. The apprenticeship scheme has been recently expanded to include employers and jobs in many fields. Many of these companies involved would be delighted to take you on and help you grow and learn on the job. Apprenticeships were traditionally only for crafts persons like carpenters, electrician, plumbers etc. While these still exist, there are now new ones in ICT, Accountancy, Engineering, Insurance, Catering and Financial technology (Fintech) etc.
A traineeship is also another option which can be considered. A traineeship is based around making you more employable by improving your skills. These tend to be a short duration courses (12-18 months) and are mostly run by the ETBs. Many apprenticeships and Traineeships are ‘Earn as you learn’ based and therefore you can attain your qualifications and get a few quid to live and pay for accommodation also.
If you feel right now that the ‘direct route’ third level journey isn’t for you, have a good look at the above alternatives over the next few weeks. It is imperative to have a little plan in the background, should you not get what you want (See below). You may not even need to use it, but it will certainly give you comfort having it there on the back burner.
You must have a Plan B, C and D
I have spoken to hundreds of students over the years who had their heart set on one course and when they didn’t make it, they had no fall back plan. Your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th and even 6th choice on your CAO form are really important. You would need to be content enough to accept these should it come to that. I cannot emphasise enough about the importance of checking out the module content of each course you choose. Genuinely ask yourself: ‘Would I do this course’?. This then sets the platform for your Plan B, C and D. Have a look at Part 1 of ‘My CAO Countdown’ advisory for specific questions you should ask yourself when deciding on your courses. If there are a limited amount of courses you really want above all others, contact that institution, and ask them ‘Is there any other way to get into the course by studying something else first, as opposed to the direct points route?’. This could be very useful Information later should things not go to plan.
Remember, if there is a subject matter you really enjoy or a course you feel you would be really good at, you may need to be open to travelling or living in another part of Ireland. Do not rule out the possibility of the UK (UCAS), the Netherlands, Poland, Italy or other European (UNICAS) countries. Fees and demand have dropped for some courses in Europe that are very popular here. Usually, your results do not need to be as high to study courses in the UK and Europe, compared to Ireland. Do that bit of exploration here if your heart is dead set on something. This is an alternative Plan B to consider. Just like in Ireland, places in certain courses may become available when not filled in earlier rounds.
Six Final Key Points of Note
- Keep an eye on the CAO ‘alert list’ for new courses emerging in various colleges on www.cao.ie. Courses are added here on a continuous basis in the ‘Applicant Resources’ section of the ‘Course’ Tab on CAO.ie. You can add these into your CAO listing before July 1st (5pm). These courses are not in your CAO handbook (hardcopy). They may also come in at lower points, as many students may not be aware they even exist and will not have them on their listing. As this article goes to press, twenty four third level institutions have courses on the ‘alert list’. Subsequently, if there is a lower than expected application or take up of certain courses, these may be added to the ‘alert list’ after CAO round one.
- If you have applied for the HEAR or DARE scheme, you will find out if you are successful or not at the end of June. You will also be able to appeal any decision made from these schemes from early July. Information on HEAR and DARE is on www.accesscollege.ie.
- For those of you who have applied for Medicine in various Universities, the HPAT results are due out around the end of June.
- The Leaving Cert results are due out the end of August, with the first round of CAO offers due to be issued a few days later. Don’t plan a ‘Leaving Cert holiday’ then!
- Students will be able to view their exam scripts (which I would recommend) soon after the results have been released. I will publish further guidance on this at the end of August, so keep an eye out for that. Subsequently, students will be able to appeal their grade in each subject (as required) by filling in a form provided by their school.
- I would recommend you sign up to the excellent https://careersnews.ie/ to keep up to date with announcements, CAO developments and news from third level institutions. They send a daily update to your inbox, which is very useful during those few weeks.
I will circulate another advisory article just before CAO Round 1 results are published in late August/early September.
To read Part 1 of this CAO advisory article, click here.
In the meantime, wishing you good luck with your upcoming choices. Joe
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