Exams

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Is it too late now to apply for college?

Aoife Walsh says there are still plenty of opportunities out there

q CAO – vacant/ available places

Every year there are CAO courses which have more places available than qualified applicants. While some of these have been advertised over the summer, they have now been removed to allow for the processing of Round One. An updated list of courses available for application will appear on the CAO website on Tuesday, August 20. This will be updated after each round of offers.

Anyone can apply for a place on one of these courses – it doesn't matter if they have already applied to the CAO or not, and it doesn't matter if they have received an offer or not. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements for the course and will then compete for the remaining places. There is no additional fee for existing CAO applicants, but there is a small fee for new applicants.

q Private Colleges

While the CAO process many applications to private colleges, there are courses available that are not in the CAO system. Many of these colleges will be holding open days/evenings over the coming days and weeks, which are often advertised. There is information on the qualifax.ie career events page.

The courses offered in these colleges are often accredited by the Higher Education Training and Awards Council (HETAC). Fees tend to be in the region of €5,000 and have been fairly stable over the last number of years. Any fees paid are tax deductible at a rate of 20pc.

Private colleges offer a variety of courses, generally more directed towards business, liberal arts or creative disciplines rather than science. Colleges include Dublin Business School, offering business courses, psychology, law and liberal arts; Griffith College, offering a law degree which is recognised for entry to King's Inns as well as a number of creative courses including interior design and media; and Independent Colleges Dublin, offering courses in Law, Arts, Accounting, Journalism and Computers.

Many of these colleges offer both full-time and part-time modes of study. There are many other colleges around the country and more information is available on qualifax.ie, limiting the search to direct entry courses.

While at first glance private colleges may seem expensive, given the increase in the student contribution charge at publicly funded colleges, the cost of supporting a student away from home – if that is the alternative – and the tax refund, they may be a more cost-effective option then initially thought. Those who wish to find out more about this sector should begin with qualifax.ie as well as contacting the institution, which will be more than happy to assist.

q PLC/Further Education colleges

There are Further Education (FE) colleges located all over the country. These colleges are managed by the local VECs (now renamed Education and Training Boards or ETBs) and offer courses in a wide variety of areas, including pre-university science, hairdressing, preparation for the emergency services and many more. Courses are mostly offered at a FETAC level 5, which can be completed in one year.

Students generally use FE in one of two ways – either to gain a qualification in a specific area and begin work, or as an alternative entry route to a university or IT. Many FE colleges already have links set up with the ITs and universities allowing for direct progression, but students can also make a CAO application where they are competing on the basis of the FETAC qualification rather than their Leaving Cert.

Most FE colleges began accepting applications in January and at this point may have conducted a number of interview rounds. However, all colleges will continue to accept applications until their courses are full. While more popular courses are often full at this stage, most colleges will still have some places available. Also remember that many students will have made applications to the CAO as well as to FE colleges, and may turn down their Level 5 place in favour of their CAO choice. It is definitely worth getting in contact with a local FE college to see what is available.

The basic requirement for these courses is five passes in the traditional Leaving Cert or a pass in the Leaving Certificate Applied.

Applicants will be invited for an interview, which is usually more of a friendly chat to ensure candidates are suitable for the course and vice versa. Interested students should make sure they are familiar with the course and its content, and are clear on why they want do it and where it will lead.

Irish Independent

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