THE CAO application process has moved very smoothly from the old paper application to an online application, which was used by 98 per cent of applicants last year. Almost all applications from school leavers will be made via "Apply" this year. The online application service will remain open on the CAO website, www.cao.ie until 5.15pm on 1st February next. To avoid delays, the CAO is encouraging applicants not to leave it to the last minute to lodge the application.
On a single online application, you may choose from the entire range of courses mentioned in the CAO Handbook 2013. All of the courses on the online application are categorised as 'Level 8' or 'Level 7/Level 6'. Up to 10 courses may be chosen in each category - listed in order of preference in each case.
The fee for the online application is €25, if you apply by January 20 and €40 if you apply by the standard closing date of February 1. If you apply from within the Republic of Ireland you can make a fee payment using a credit card ( Visa or MasterCard) or a debit card (Laser) or you may use a pre-paid credit, card which can be obtained from various suppliers such as O2 or 3V. Alternatively, you can pay the fee at a Bank using the Application Fee Payment Form, which can be obtained by contacting CAO and requesting it to be posted to you.
Click on 'Apply' to access the CAO online application form. The instructions for completing the form are easy to follow. Enter the personal details required as they appear on screen. Tick the section that is relevant to you on the qualifications and assessment summary. In the vast majority of cases, this will be the Irish Leaving Certificate Examination. Once you register your payment option by either of the methods mentioned above, confirm your acceptance of the terms and conditions that apply to your application. Next you declare, by ticking the box, that all particulars on the form are true and correct. As an added security feature, password protect your CAO application by entering a password of choice. Click on 'Proceed with Application', which allows you to advance to the next step.
At this point, take note of your 2013 CAO application number. From this point forward, you will need your application number and your password, if you have supplied one, to log on to 'My Application', your online CAO application. Continue now to complete the personal details section. Then proceed to type your course choices onto one or both of the lists.
If you wish to apply for a student grant, you indicate this on your CAO online application. CAO will then provide details of your identification, contact, offer and acceptance to the grant authority, SUSI. This welcome new facility will help to minimise the delay in payments, which caused widespread financial hardship this year.
If you wish to disclose a disability or specific learning difficulty, tick the appropriate box. Complete the Supplementary Information Form (SIF) and also tick the DARE (Disability Access Route to Education) box, if it applies to you. If you wish to be considered under HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) tick the appropriate box. You will be guided to further instructions about completing the DARE or HEAR sections. Once you have completed the CAO form you must print or save a copy of your receipt of online application which is your evidence of having submitted an online application. You may also confirm receipt of your application by logging on to the CAO website, www.cao.ie and using the 'My Application' option. As the CAO online application is interactive, you may continue to work on your application until February1, 2013.
It is very important to check your course choices immediately to ensure that they are absolutely correct. Use the online Change Courses facility on the CAO website to amend or add courses. This facility is free of charge until January 31. You may also use the online Change Course facility from February 5 - March 1 on payment of an additional processing fee of €10 which must be paid by credit/laser Card. You will only need to use the online Change Course facility if you made an error or omission in Restricted-Application Courses or you are a mature applicant who made an error or omission in your courses. All other applicants should use the Change of Mind option, between May 5 and July 1, to make any course changes.
After May 5, you may, if you wish, use the Change of Mind facility to make course changes online at www.cao.ie. There is no fee for using the Change of Mind facility. Check that your courses have been updated by using the 'My Application' facility before July 1, 2013.
The online application is now the standard method of application for all students. It has eliminated a fair amount of cumbersome paperwork. It's user friendly and easy to follow, particularly as CAO provides an 'Interactive Demo' to enable you make a trial application. It's a secure and safe way of applying for your courses and it allows you to submit your application from the privacy of your own home. The improvements and modifications, which the CAO has made to the online application facility, have made it an extremely accessible and safe way to apply for college
Billy Ryle is a Career Guidance Counsellor and writer