Sunday 25 March 2018

Is it too late now to apply for a place at college?

No, it's not. There are still plenty of opportunities out there, writes Aoife Walsh

Students from all over the world are set to start an online history course with Trinity College Dublin
Students from all over the world are set to start an online history course with Trinity College Dublin

Aoife Walsh

SOME students may be pleasantly surprised by their results today and perhaps are regretting not applying for courses for which they felt they would not qualify. Others may not have submitted any college applications at all.

While there may be fewer options available now, there are still many opportunities for those applying for the first time and those who may wish to consider other options.

CAO Vacant places

Every year there are CAO courses that have more places available than qualified applicants. While some of these have been advertised over the summer, they have now been removed to allow for the processing of Round One. An updated list of courses available for application will appear on the CAO from noon, Tuesday August 19. This list will be updated constantly until all offers have been exhausted, so it is worthwhile checking back on a regular basis. These places are open both to students who are already in the CAO system and those who have not yet applied.

Private Colleges

While the CAO processes many applications to private colleges, there are courses available that are not in the CAO system, and for which students apply directly. Some courses are likely to have available places. Many of these colleges, such as Griffith College, with campuses in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, DBS, Dublin, Dorset College, Dublin and Independent College, Dublin, will be holding open days and evenings over the coming days and weeks. These are often advertised in the press and on the radio and there is also information on the careers' events page.


For a student willing, ready and able to travel to England, Scotand, Wales or Northern Ireland, to pursue third-level studies there are many openings in UK universities at this time of year, through a process known as Clearing. Clearing is administered by UCAS, the central organisation responsible for processing applications to UK universities. Clearing kicks in for places that have not been filled or that have been turned down by applicants.

A student who has already completed a UCAS application will be automatically entered into this process but it is also possible to apply now for the first time. A list of available places is released on and it is the responsibility of the individual applicant to deal directly with each institution.

For anyone applying to Clearing, it is important to start this process as soon as possible even if not 100pc sure you will take the place. Clearing remains open until September 30, but courses will be removed from the list as they are filled. The earlier a student applies the more choice they will have.

Further Education/Post-Leaving 

There are further education (FE) colleges all over the country offering everything from pre-university science to hairdressing, to preparation for the emergency services and many more, in what are usually known as Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. Courses are mostly offered at a FETAC Level 5, which can be completed in one year. They are geared to preparing students for the workplace, but, increasingly, they are used as a stepping stone to higher education. Many students find it beneficial to spend time in further education before making a final decision about third-level options and find the smaller classes and more intimate atmosphere a help in making the transition from second to third level. This year, more than 15,000 of the almost 78,000 CAO applicants used a FETAC award as a basis for seeking a college place.

While the colleges have been accepting applicants since January, many will be interviewing applicants for available places in coming weeks, so it is worth contacting them.

Other Leaving Certificate options

This year, like every year,  a number of students will have opted to take the the Leaving Cert Applied Programme or The Leaving Cert Vocational Programme rather than the traditional Leaving Cert programme.


Taking the Leaving Cert Vocational Programme (LCVP) means that students take at least five Leaving Cert subjects similar to the traditional Leaving Cert and two link modules in the area of enterprise and the world of work.

Students can earn up to 70 CAO points for their link modules. Students can use these points as part of their six best subjects to compete for CAO places.    However most institutions do not recognise LCVP as a subject for matriculation purposes. 

LCVP also offers students a range of experiences and learning that will assist them independent learning, interview skills, career development and job application.


The Leaving Cert Applied (LCA) allows students to study a variety of subjects not offered by the traditional Leaving Cert. Apart from a number of core subjects the subjects students study depend on the school they attend.

Students also complete work experience and are assessed over two years. LCA students can not apply directly to the CAO but there are a number of options available to them if they wish to complete further study.

LCA students can apply directly to PLC where they can study for a Level 5 or Level 6 in a variety of areas. These qualifications can then be used to enter the work place or apply to the CAO to progress to a level 6, 7 or 8 qualification in institutes of technology or universities.

Irish Independent

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