Aoife Walsh: 'Things to do in February to give you peace of mind'
The passing of the CAO February 1 deadline will not result in school life becoming any less busy for Leaving Cert students. Many schools are entering into mock exams. Projects for home economics, LCVP and engineering are due in the next month and Leaving Cert orals start on March 25.
The thoughts of all these deadlines can easily overwhelm us, so prioritising is key to ensuring students manage to stay on top of things. Here are some February tasks that will help bring peace of mind.
Learn to study better
Despite their best intentions, many students find it extremely difficult to establish a good study routine. It is likely that the 'mock' exams have either already begun or will start very soon. Impending exams can focus thoughts and help students to get down to some very productive work and this Leaving Cert practice run shows students their strengths and weaknesses. Take full advantage of this new learning and make best use of the remaining four months.
Take one last look at your CAO
It can be helpful to revisit the order of preference list this month. Changes can be made up to March 1 for a fee of €10. This means that if an applicant spots a mistake on their form, it can be rectified - perhaps an applicant has forgotten to list a restricted entry course for which they wish to be considered.
Finish HEAR and DARE applications
Any CAO applicant interested in HEAR or DARE must have indicated their intention to apply by February 1. They must also complete the online supplementary information form by March 1. Applicants may need the assistance of a parent to do so, especially with regard to the HEAR application. An applicant must also submit all supporting documentation by April 1 - this can take a long time to collect and professionals, whether a hospital consultant or a special needs teacher, require sufficient notice.
Focus on PLC and Level 5/6
We have mentioned further education/PLC courses many times in the last number of weeks. They offer excellent entry routes to third level and allow students to gain an award that may assist them in accessing their chosen degree. The difference being that, in a PLC, students study an area in which they are interested rather than the broad range of subjects required at Leaving Cert. Applications can now be made to most further education colleges. Colleges will continue to take applications until all courses are filled, but some courses fill early. If students have already applied for an FE course, they should spend some time now preparing for the interview.
Check out options
Unfortunately, every year a number of students apply to the CAO and enter third level because they cannot find a viable alternative, rather than because of a genuine passion for their chosen course. With the increase in apprenticeships, work opportunities and training programmes, there are more options than in the last decade. Students should regularly check careers websites to ensure they are aware of all opportunities as they arise. We often only realise that something is the perfect opportunity for us after we see it advertised.
Many of these programmes and employers begin to advertise in spring, so it is prudent to keep a close eye on careers news websites and the media. For example, the Dublin Airport Authority is currently recruiting apprentice electricians and fitters.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
Q I heard you can make changes to your CAO after the February 1 deadline has passed. Is this true?
A From February 5 to March 1, the CAO allows applicants to make changes to their submitted form for a fee of €10. Most applicants should not need to make changes at this time as they can make any changes during the 'change of mind' period from May 6 until July 1.
One of the main reasons why applicants avail of this facility is because they forgot to enter a restricted entry course. Restricted entry courses, which are clearly marked in the CAO handbook, require applicants to undergo early assessment procedures, which may begin as early as February. For example, art courses require applicants to submit a portfolio of work, a drama or music course may require an audition, and medicine requires students to take a suitability test. These courses should be included on the CAO no later than February 1, so applicants can be invited to attend tests and auditions or to submit work. But the change of course choices facility allows applicants to rectify any mistakes or omissions made before the February 1 deadline.
This facility will also benefit any postal applicants who may have made a mistake on their application, of which they only become aware after they received their statement of choices.