Thursday 19 April 2018

Leaving Certificate: Is it too late now to apply for college?

Every year there are CAO courses that have more places available than qualified applicants.
Every year there are CAO courses that have more places available than qualified applicants.

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

It may feel like it is too late to change your mind about college or to apply for the first time but there are many options.

Private Colleges

While the CAO processes applications for many courses in private colleges, these colleges also have courses available that are not in the CAO system, for which students apply directly, and some are likely to have available places. Many of these colleges, which include DBS, Dublin, Griffith College, with campuses in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, Dorset College, Dublin and Pulse College, Dublin and Galway, will be holding open days and evenings in the coming days and weeks.

Fees for these colleges can be around €5,000, but are tax deductible at the rate of 20pc. Given that, this year, the student contribution in publicly-funded colleges is €3,000, the cost differential between the two sectors has narrowed considerably. Families may find that the cost of attending a local private college compares favourably with the cost of a child living away from home. Courses are available at all levels - check out the course finder.

CAO Vacant Places

Every year there are CAO courses that have more places available than qualified applicants. Some of these were advertised over the summer but have been removed from the CAO website to allow for the processing of Round One. An updated list of courses available for application will appear on the website next Tuesday. This will be updated constantly until all offers have been exhausted, so it is advisable to check regularly. These places are open to application by those already in the CAO system and those who have not yet applied.

For someone who has already submitted a CAO application, there is no charge to apply for vacant places. Such applicants will be asked to resubmit their CAO list leaving any courses for which they still wish to be considered, and adding vacant places courses for which they wish to apply, in order of preference. For applicants who have not previously made a CAO application, the fee is €40. Check for full details.

Further Education/ PLC courses

Further education colleges all over the country offer what are generally known as Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses in a wide variety of areas, which prepare students both to enter work, and to progress to universities and institutes of technology. Courses are at Level 5 (one year) and Level 6 (two years). Many colleges have been filling places since January but will continue to consider applicants until all courses have filled. While many courses will already be full, it is equally likely that all colleges still have places available on some courses. Applications are made directly to colleges and interested applicants should contact colleges for available courses and interview dates.


If you are willing to travel, there can be many opportunities in British universities, through a process known as Clearing. This is where places which have not been filled are now available. If you have already completed a UCAS application you will be automatically entered into this process, but you may also apply for the first time. Lists of available places are released on and it is the responsibility of each applicant to deal directly with each institution.

If you choose to apply for Clearing it is important to start this process as soon as possible even if you are not 100pc sure you will take the place, because even though Clearing remains open until September, courses will be removed from the lists as they are filled. The earlier you apply the more choice you will have.

Irish Independent

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