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Leaving Cert 2022: I haven’t applied to college, is it too late?

Changed your mind or still wondering what to do? Don’t worry. There is a huge variety of opportunities available across both higher education and further education


There are still plenty of higher-education options for those who are still unsure about what to do

There are still plenty of higher-education options for those who are still unsure about what to do

There are still plenty of higher-education options for those who are still unsure about what to do


CAO Available Places

For those dreaming of progressing through the CAO, its “available places” facility has plenty of opportunities. It allows new applicants to enter the system for the first time, as well as providing an opportunity for those who have already applied to be considered for other courses. There is always a variety of excellent courses available.

If you are applying for the CAO for the first time through “available places”, there is a fee of €45. There is no charge for existing CAO applicants.

The “available places” are on courses with unfilled places, either because they did not receive enough applicants prior to July 1, or because not all offers have been accepted. The list will be constantly updated until the CAO offers season closes in October, so it is worth checking regularly. Applicants can add courses for which they would like to be considered and also new courses that are added to the list. It is essential to remember that each time you add an “available place” course to your application, you must resubmit your entire order of preference list, for either Level 8 or Level 7/6, whichever is relevant.

Private colleges and direct-entry courses

Private colleges play an important role, with a wide range of courses available both within the CAO system and also for which direct application can be made.

Long-established private colleges include Griffith, with campuses in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, and DBS, Dublin.

Private colleges will have a significant number of “available places” on the CAO list, but they also offer direct entry to courses, outside the CAO. The direct-entry filter on the course search on careersportal.ie is a useful research tool.

Those interested in pursuing study at a private college should contact the college directly.

Private colleges are not part of the Government’s “free fees” scheme, so charges can run above the €3,000 student charge in publicly funded institutions. Fees are usually around €5,000 – however, tax relief is available at 20pc. Given the expense and difficulty in acquiring accommodation at present, it may be a much more cost-effective option to attend a private college within a commutable distance rather than a “free fees” college away from home.

Unfortunately, many private college courses do not qualify for the Susi student grant, although some do.

TU Dublin Foundation Programme

No points are required for a one-year pre-university programme at TU Dublin, which can lead to entry to any undergraduate course at the technological university in 2023.

It’s a great opportunity for school-leavers who haven’t met the academic standards for entry via the CAO or who need time for personal development and/or more support to find their career path.

The Access Foundation Programme is open to adults and school-leavers, but school-leavers take up most of the 150 places. Deadline for applications is September 9.

As well as learning valuable skills around communication and information technology and how to research and write academic work, participants choose modules in areas of interest across engineering, business, social science, art and computing.

Applicants are assessed for their suitability, but TU Dublin aims not to turn anyone away. The course is free, but students do not qualify for a Susi grant.


FET covers both full-time courses in colleges of further education, such as PLCs, and apprenticeships and traineeships, which are part work, part study, as well as other training options


Post- Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses sit between second-level and higher education, They are full-time one- and two-year courses and, most commonly, offer a qualification at Level 5 or Level 6 (degrees are Level 7 and 8). They cover all areas of interest – from art to business to equine studies to science to childcare. Overwhelmingly, they are offered in colleges of further education all over the country, operating under the auspices of education and training boards (ETBs). They are designed to prepare participants for employment and also act as an alternative route to higher education.

The benefits of taking an FE course are many and this year there is the added bonus that students no longer have to pay the €200 Government-imposed levy, although colleges may charge for materials.

PLCs can give participants access to CAO courses that may have been previously out of their reach based on points. Students also develop many skills that are essential for success at third level, including communications, independent study, completing assignments. A PLC also allows the student to explore an area of study for a year without making a commitment to a degree course.

Access routes from PLCs to higher education are growing. For example, this year DCU is increasing from 38 to 62 the number of degree programmes accepting entrants from PLCs.

For those who want to start working without doing a degree, a PLC is invaluable for developing knowledge and skills in specialised area. It certainly boosts students’ chances of following a preferred career path.

Colleges continue to accept applications until courses and waiting lists are full. Those interested should contact their local FE college and/or research courses on careersportal.ie

Apprenticeships and traineeships

There has been an explosion in the availability and popularity of apprenticeships as a route to a rewarding and sustainable career.

Many people may associate apprenticeships with craft trades such as electrical and plumbing, and there are still 25 of those. But there is now also another 41 programmes (and growing) across a broad spectrum of industry sectors, with qualifications up to degree level.

The sheer variety represents a viable alternative to the CAO, with opportunities as wide-ranging as financial services, healthcare, biopharma, wind turbine maintenance, property, bar management and hairdressing.

Rather than a full-time college experience, apprenticeships offer a combination of paid work and classes, mainly over four years.

The starting point is finding an employer, and currently there are more than 8,400 on board, across the different sectors.

It may be worth contacting a local employer, but otherwise anyone interested can log on to the Solas apprenticeship.ie website, which has a list of approved employers currently seeking to hire apprentices and details about how to apply.

Traineeships are like mini-apprenticeships, in that they combine on-the-job training and study, and run for six to 20 months. Currently, there are least 75 programmes, as diverse as green keeping, animal science, fashion, media logistics and tourism, leading to qualifications at levels 4, 5 and 6 on the national framework.

They are run by education and training boards (ETBs) in partnership with employers.

NLN and other assisted training programmes

There are 50 National Learning Network (NLN) colleges across Ireland, offering a range of free courses to people, aged from 16 up, who need additional support, including people who have a mental health issue, or have had an accident, illness, injury, or have a physical or learning disability.

NLN’s range of certified courses are tailored to each student’s needs, to help them to build their confidence while gaining practical skills in order to get a job or go on to further or higher education. NLN operates on continuous intake, which means people can begin a course at a time that suits them. There are no CAO points required.

There are numerous other programmes around the country supporting learners with similar issues – for example EVE Plantmarket, in Lusk, north county Dublin. This joint HSE-Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLETB) initiative has courses in horticulture, retail practice, and employability skills and will accept applications from those over the age of 18.

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