Spreading your CAO options in 2011
Each year the A-Z Spreading Your Options chart in the January CAO supplement differs slightly from that of the previous year, reflecting the changes that take place every year throughout the third-level college scene.
The chart is unique in that it gathers strands of information that are nowhere else available in one place. It consists of the courses in the CAO 2011 Handbook, with their final cut-off points for 2010, where applicable. Some courses are new and appear in the Handbook for the first time this year, so no cut-off points were available for them in 2010.
The chart also includes the updated information from the CAO “Important Changes” list, which came too late for publication in the CAO 2011 handbook.
The chart therefore includes any course for which application may be made in 2011, even though it does not appear in the 2011 Handbook. The chart excludes the small number of courses which appear in the 2011 Handbook, but which have subsequently been withdrawn by the college.
The chart of CAO courses is organised in a very deliberate manner. Instead of listing courses by institution, it lists them in categories, for example all the Level 8 (honours degree) and Level 7/6 (ordinary degree or higher certificate) courses in the Arts/Humanities area, the Business studies /Commerce area, the Engineering area, the Sciences and so forth, in all the colleges.
Because they may list 10 choices in order of genuine preference on both the Level 8 list and the Level 7/6 list, students may spread their options across the application form.
Research, Research, Research
Applicants should research their choices thoroughly, working from up-to-date lists, and using the current CAO handbook and the colleges’ own literature and websites when making course choices.
Although applying to CAO is a simple, straightforward procedure, many applicants approach the task in the wrong manner. Some applicants are so fixed on the idea of going to a particular college that they will consider doing any course they can to get into that college, rather than consider applying to a course that they might enjoy more in another college.
These applicants will go down the list of courses in a particular college, listing ten courses in that one institution.
The courses are often unrelated to each other in content, or unrelated to the applicants’ real areas of interest. But it can be difficult to persuade such applicants to look at some course of real interest to them in what they might consider to be a less glamorous college.
Another approach is exemplified by the applicant who decides to look only at courses within a certain points band. A student might anticipate getting 350 points.
He or she will scour the lists of last year’s cutoff points, picking courses that “cost” 350 points or thereabouts, almost regardless of the content of the course.
It is not surprising that many students end up on courses that they do not enjoy. Remember CAO’s advice: Choose courses in order of genuine preference, and do not base them on projected exam results or on last year’s points.