CAO college applicants often worry unnecessarily about the application system. They believe it to be a minefield when it is actually very straightforward.
Nevertheless, applicants can make simple mistakes during the application process that could have devastating effects in the offer season.
Misunderstanding the CAO preference system is the single-most serious error.
CAO applicants may apply for up to 10 courses in order of genuine preference on a list of honours degree courses (level eight) and another 10 on a list of ordinary degree/higher certificate courses (levels seven and six).
When their exam results come out, they are offered the highest preference course that their results entitle them to, if any, from each list.
When offers come out in August, applicants who have not followed this simple rule will contact helplines, colleges and the CAO with the same query: "I have been offered my first choice, but I don't want it.
"I would really prefer the course that I put down as my second preference. I have enough points for it. May I turn down my offer and ask for my second choice?"
The answer is: You can turn it down, but you won't be offered your lower preference.
Once applicants are made an offer of the highest preference course that their results entitle them to, they will be excluded from further consideration for any course that is lower in their stated order of preference than the one in which they have been offered a place.
They may subsequently move upwards in their order of preference (if places become available due to withdrawals), but they will not be considered for a place in a course which is a lower preference than that already offered.
Remember that rule.
Open day: Today, Crumlin College of Further Education, Crumlin Road, Dublin 12, from 10am to 4pm.