The career guidance counsellor on an alternative education path
Now that the main CAO application deadline has passed, students can switch their focus to opportunities presented by another valuable education pathway, the post-Leaving Certificate course (PLC).
It is wise for any student to apply for a PLC, including those who, at this stage, feel committed to a particular CAO course. When CAO offers are made, a student may find they have lost out on a desired place by a few points, they may have changed their mind about the choices they placed on the CAO form or they may not feel ready to sign up for a three-, four- or five-year degree programme.
PLCs are available in colleges of further education, as well as some second-level schools.
These colleges can be found in every county in the country and offer a wide variety of subjects. They are currently open for applications. Most colleges will have online application forms available on their website.
These courses can be used as an excellent qualification in their own right. The qualifications are at Level 5 and Level 6 on the national framework of qualifications and compare with Level 7 for an ordinary degree and Level 8 for an honours degree.
Completion of a PLC course prepares a student for the world of work or to take up an apprenticeship. They can also be used as a stepping stone to third level through dedicated progression routes.
Every year places that are reserved for students coming from further education colleges remain unfilled in some universities. Links between further education courses and CAO courses can be researched on careersportal.ie and cao.ie.
Entry to a PLC course is generally based on having ‘passes’ in five Leaving Cert subjects and an interview. Due to the Covid restrictions, many colleges will not be going ahead with their traditional interviews so applicants will be awarded places based solely on their application forms.
Any CAO applicant who forgot to add a course to their list before the February 1 deadline has the opportunity to amend choices up to March 1, but at a cost of €10 for each change. It is not relevant to most candidates but it is very important for those who neglected to list a restricted entry course before February 1.
This facility can be helpful to mature applicants who need to make changes. Most institutions require mature applicants to list courses they wish to be considered for no later than February 1, but mature applicants who find themselves wishing to add a course past this date can do so during this window.
Most CAO applicants can simply wait for the ‘change of mind’ period to open on May 5. During this time they can add, remove and change the order of preference as many times as they wish for no fee.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin