independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Changing courses while at college

Q My daughter is in her first year in college, but is very unhappy in her course. Her attendance has probably been poor throughout the year and I do not believe that she will pass her end-of year exams.

She should have applied through CAO again this year for a different course. Is it too late to do so now? Would she have to pay fees for the first year of a new course?

A Firstly, she still has time to apply for another course this autumn. Anybody may apply to CAO by the late application date of May 1, subject to restrictions.

In addition there is a facility whereby people who are current undergraduate students in any year in any one of the higher education institutions (and who had entered that HEI through CAO) may make a late application for a new course, in paper form only, to arrive in CAO by July 22.

The form must be stamped by the admissions officer of the institution in which the applicant is a student. All details relating to this exceptional closing date facility may be found in the current CAO handbook, either in print or at www.cao.ie.

Your second question relates to your daughter's liability for fees. Under the free tuition fees arrangement, students are entitled to free tuition fees for each year of their course, but not usually for a repeat year of the same course, or another first year of a second course.

If a student withdraws from a course before February 1, they may be entitled to free tuition fees for half of the first year of a new course, but this does not seem to have happened in this case.

If a student withdraws from a course after February 1, he or she is not usually entitled to free tuition fees for any of the first year on a new course. (Funding arrangements differ for third level courses. Details may be found on the Department of Education and Skills's website or through their booklet, Financial Support for Further and Higher Education.)

There are a number of things that unhappy students should do before applying for another course. They should discuss their problem with a student advisor, counsellor, or tutor in the college they are attending. They should ask themselves what is wrong with the course on which they enrolled. Why do they not like it? Have they given it a fair chance? Had they researched it properly before applying for it? Could they make it work with a little effort?

Each student's problem can be different, and a range of reasons may lie behind their difficulties. The course on which they are enrolled may have been a low preference course on their CAO application last year, in which they have very little interest.

They may be struggling with financial or personal problems which do not allow them to concentrate on what they are doing. The prospect of imminent examinations may cause them to panic. They may find a particular college a daunting environment and might be happier elsewhere.

Sometimes these problems can be sorted through and resolved, but sometimes students may genuinely feel they would be happier and do better in another course or college. The important thing is that they seek the appropriate help.

Open days: The Institute of Technology, Tallaght, (ITT), Dublin 24 will host an Open Evening this evening from 6pm - 9pm; The Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown, (ITB), Dublin 15, hosts an Open Evening on Tuesday, April 20, 4pm-7pm.

Irish Independent

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