Aoife Walsh: Going to college - essential CAO advice
Take care with the CAO form to avoid getting wrong course -- or none at all
Published 08/01/2014 | 02:30
Deciding what order to place your course in on the CAO form is no easy task and requires careful consideration. It is essential that all students fill out the form in genuine order of preference but that can be difficult to decide on.
When filling out the form, research is of the upmost importance. Unfortunately, every year students guess the contents of the course from the title, or presume that courses with similar titles in different colleges will have similar content. This is not always the case.
Applicants should thoroughly research their choices using the college websites and literature, as well as the CAO handbook and website.
A common mistake that applicants make is thinking they must apply for the courses with the highest points.
Sometimes students talk about not wanting to 'waste' their points and only look at courses where last year's points cut-off is similar to the points they expect to achieve.
However, it is more important that students apply for courses they feel they will enjoy and which will suit them.
It can be very helpful to talk about possible choices with people who know you well. Parents, friends and relatives can all help with insight into what might suit you or make suggestions you have not yet considered.
Remember, points are based on supply and demand and not on how difficult, interesting or suitable that course will be for a particular student.
Don't rule out courses because you know or have heard of someone else who had a bad experience or dropped out.
The most common reason for dropping out of third-level courses is that the content, college or material was not what the student expected. Just because a course did not suit another person does not mean that it is not the right course for you.
It is always surprising how many students apply for courses without having ever visited the institution or doing proper research. So, listen to people's opinions, but also listen carefully to someone's reasons for leaving and make your decisions based on what is right for you.
Always ensure that your first-preference course is your 'dream' course, even if you are uncertain whether or not you will achieve the required points.
The CAO is unable to offer you courses for which you have not applied.
Once your form is filled in, it may be helpful to check that there are one or two courses listed for which you are sure you will make the requirements.
These can be thought of as your 'banker' courses. It may be a risk to apply only for courses with very high points with no back-up plan. Finally, students should ensure that they have made full use of the level 6 and 7 list.
This list will be considered completely separate from your Level 8 list and students may receive two offers in August; one from their Level 8 choices and one from their Level 7/6.
IMPORTANT DATES THIS WEEK:
HPAT Ulster Test — Registration Closes.
Open Evening IBAT College Dublin.
Information & Enrolment Evening — Lifelong Learning Autumn Programme, Cavan Institute.
Open / Information Evening — Lifelong Learning Galway-Mayo IT, Castlebar.
Mature Students Information Seminar, Trinity College Dublin.
FETAC Entry to Science & Computer Science — University College Dublin.
Return to Learning Information Evening — for Adult Learners and Mature Students, University of Limerick.
HEAR and DARE application advice clinics . 10am- 2pm .
Cork: UCC, De Vere Hall, Student Centre
Dublin: DIT, Aungier St, Courtyard Cafe
Donegal: Jackson's Hotel, Ballybofey
Galway: NUIG Galway, Arts Millennium Building
Kildare: NUI Maynooth, Phoenix Building
Kilkenny: NUI Maynooth Kilkenny Campus, College Road, Collier Room
Limerick: Univeristy of Limerick, Kemmy Business School
Monaghan: Glencarn Hotel, Castleblaney
Westmeath: Athlone Institute of Technology, Coffee Dock Main Building, Athlone
Additional clinics will also take place in: Waterford – Woodlands Hotel, Dunmore Road - January 13 (7-9pm)
Sligo –The Glasshouse Hotel, Swan Point - January 14 (6.30-8.30 pm)
Kerry – Carlton Hotel, Dan Spring road, Tralee – January 16 (7-9pm)
Wexford – Ferrycarrig Hotel – January 16 (3- 8pm)
CAO Information Evening — LIT Thurles; Limerick Institute of Technology, Tipperary.
NUI Maynooth, City Centre CAO Information Evening, Radisson Blue Hotel, Dublin 8.
Applying to UCD/CAO Clinics, University College Dublin.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin.