Watch out for changed entry requirements
An important element of the college application process is to check carefully all entry requirements that a student may be asked to fulfil in order to gain access to a particular course.
Although we often overlook this element in our preoccupation with points, entry requirements are an important piece of the puzzle. If a student does not hold the correct entry requirements they will not be offered a place on that course, regardless of how many CAO points they achieve.
There are two distinct sets of entry requirements that must be met by students.
The first are the matriculation requirements set down by the institution. These vary. In general, NUI universities (UCD, UCC, MU and NUI Galway) require students to 'pass' Irish, English and another language. Institutes of technology require students to hold a 'pass' in English or Irish and maths. The three remaining universities require a combination of a language and maths. In previous years, students were required to hold a D3 (minimum 40pc, at either higher or ordinary level). With the new Leaving Cert grading system, this requirement will be O6 (40-49pc ordinary level) or H7 (30-39pc higher level). This means that students who take the higher level paper and who do not quite reach 40pc will get recognised for their achievements; it will be acknowledged that had they taken the ordinary level paper they would have achieved the required 'passing' grade.
Colleges also require students to hold a certain number of higher-level grades. All institutions (with the exception of Trinity) previously required applicants to hold two HC3s to access a Level 8 programme. Trinity required students to hold three HC3s. This meant that students had to achieve at least 55pc in a number of higher-level papers.
This year, in order to gain entry to a Level 8 course, applicants must achieve a H5 grade in two subjects, or three for Trinity. As the H5 grade is awarded for 50pc-59pc, students can now meet this requirement for a mark of up to 5pc less than in previous years.
Additionally, students were required to 'pass' at least four other subjects. This meant that a student who 'failed' a higher-level subject may not have met these requirements. As H7 is considered a 'pass' at ordinary level, some students who previously would not have met these requirements may now access their chosen course with ease.
Secondly, students need to meet specific course requirements to show that they have acquired the level of knowledge necessary to cope with the course content. These requirements are most prevalent in languages, science subjects and maths, and differ depending on the course. As a result of the new grading system, most of these requirements have changed: some courses will require students to achieve a higher mark in a course requirement subject, while some courses will now accept a lower mark.
One example of a course where the entry requirement is decreasing is CK703, Pharmacy in UCC, where the chemistry requirement will reduce from HC3 (55pc) to H5 (50pc). An example of where entry requirements will rise is DN150 Engineering in UCD, up from HC3 in maths and HD3 in science to H4 in maths and H5 in science. An increase of 5pc and 10pc, respectively.
So, it is extremely important for students to double check all requirements. This is especially so for repeat students who may find that the now meet the requirements for a course that they could not access last year.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
* Information session — National Learning Network, Roslyn Park College, Sandymount, Dublin
* Teagasc Open Day -Pallaskenny Agricultural College
* CAO opens for application — cao.ie
Q. How will the changes to the points system in 2017 affect LCVP?
A. The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) is an alternative style of Leaving Cert. Students are expected to take at least six subjects (the same as Leaving Cert established students) as well as an extra subject known as the link modules, where they learn about business, entrepreneurship, and engage in career investigations and work experience. Not only is the learning acquired in LCVP beneficial in its own right, but students participating in this subject can earn up to 66 CAO points for their efforts.