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Tuesday 24 October 2017

CAO expecting surge of changes in college choices

Students are nearing the end of their exams
Students are nearing the end of their exams

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

THOUSANDS of Leaving Cert students are expected to change their mind about college choices now that the exams are winding up.

There is always a big surge as school leavers finish their exams, and this week the CAO is expecting about 20,000 of them to change their preferences.

Going by previous trends, over 40,000 of the 76,518 applicants to the CAO this year are likely to switch their priorities, and already over 23,000 have done so. CAO applicants have until July 1 to submit different course choices to those which they previously entered, if that is what they really want to do.

The reasons for changing choices varies, but applicants are told not to be influenced by how they think they did in the exams and a belief that they will not get the points for their top preferences.

The eternal advice to school-leavers is to focus on third-level courses in which they have a genuine interest, because that is where they have the best chance of doing well.

Sometimes school leavers change their minds because a new course has been added or because they decide they are not really interested in their earlier choices.


Trends in CAO applications in recent years have followed the swings and roundabouts of the economy, suggesting that students are pursuing courses with a strong prospect of leading to jobs.

There has been a huge increase in first-preference applications to areas such as science, engineering, computing and agriculture, while construction-related programmes and teaching have suffered a dip in interest.

The Institute of Technology sector appears to be the beneficiary of the downturn in demand for teaching, a shift that may also be linked to the swing to science and technology.

An analysis of CAO trends over the past five years, by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), shows that the Institutes of Technology now account for 30pc of first-preference applications for Level 8 (honours degree), up from 27.5pc in 2009.

Meanwhile, first preferences for teacher training colleges have dropped from 6.5pc of the total to 4.8pc, while the level of demand for university places has remained static, at about 62pc.

Based on applications to the CAO by its February 1 deadline this year, first preferences to teacher training have fallen by almost 9pc, amid ongoing concerns about difficulties faced by graduates in getting a job.

Irish Independent

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