| 15.9°C Dublin

CAO process is open and it's not too early to start your application

Close

CAO points will rocket if we don’t provide more college places for the growing number of Leaving Certificate students in our schools.

CAO points will rocket if we don’t provide more college places for the growing number of Leaving Certificate students in our schools.

CAO points will rocket if we don’t provide more college places for the growing number of Leaving Certificate students in our schools.

The CAO application process opened on November 5. Anyone who is considering entering third-level education 2015 will at least consider making a CAO application. The CAO is responsible for processing applications to courses in more than 40 institutions and last year 73,090 applicants applied by the February 1 deadline.

Students may start their application any time between November 5 and February 1. Many students feel nervous about the application process. Students often feel that they cannot begin their application until they are sure of the courses for which they wish to apply, however this is not the case.

Most students apply online. This facility allows students to begin their application and "save" as they go along. It also allows students to make as many changes to their application as they wish between now and January 31.

On February 1, the CAO will close for applications and the processing will begin. The CAO reopens for a 'Change of Mind' period between May and July, when applicants can make as many changes as they wish to the chosen courses.

All applicants should consider beginning their CAO application form as early as possible but this is especially true for any applicant who may be considering applying though the HEAR and DARE programme, or under a special category. The HEAR programme provides a reduced points entry route for students who are considered educationally disadvantage. The DARE programme is a similar reduced points entry scheme for students who have a disability, specific learning difficulty or a significant ongoing illness. Applicants who should complete the special category section include mature students, students with qualifications other than Leaving Certificate and those who have attended a third level institution previously.

These entry routes require applicants to submit additional information online and in paper format. Much of this information may take some time to gather and applicants must have access to their CAO application in order to begin this process.

While the process may seem daunting, in reality the most difficult aspect of completing a CAO application is choosing the courses. The CAO has plenty of resources available on cao.ie to guide applicants through the process. These include a demo application where applicants can work through the entire process before completing the real application, as well as video guides and parents' guides. Applicants can also download a CAO app for further information.

A full list of courses available for application in 2015 can be found in the CAO handbook, which can be collected at school or requested from the CAO directly.

Applicants should also regularly check college alert lists on the CAO website for changes to courses. Here applicants may find information about cancelled courses as well as new additions to the CAO.

When selecting courses, applicants should always list their course in genuine order of preference. The CAO will presume applicants have done this when they are processing offers. They will always offer applicants the highest course on their preference list for which they are eligible.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin

Irish Independent