Going to college...
Although March is a very quiet month in the CAO process, this week some Leaving Cert students are facing a very important deadline. It is essential that all students who are in the process of making a HEAR or DARE application submit all supporting documentation by the end of the week.
Every year, the deadline for such documentation to reach the CAO is April 1. As April 1 falls on a Saturday this year, documentation should reach the CAO office in Galway no later than March 31, which is this Friday.
It can take some time to collect this documentation. However, most students will have been engaged in this process for the past number of weeks, or even months.
DARE is an access scheme for students who suffer from any one of a range of conditions including ADHD, ASD, blind/vision impaired, deaf/hearing impaired, dyspraxia/dysgraphia, mental health condition, brain injury and epilepsy, physical disability, significant ongoing illness, or a specific learning difficulty, including dyslexia and dyscalculia.
DARE applicants must submit both an Educational Impact Statement and the Evidence of Disability form.
The Educational Impact Statement is completed by the school and outlines how the student's disability has impacted on their learning as understood by the school.
The Evidence of Disability form is completed by a relevant health professional and describes this student's condition and symptoms of that condition.
Students themselves have already had the opportunity to outline how their condition affects them when they completed the online form as part of their CAO application.
This online section should have been completed by March 1.
It is important to remember that the purpose of DARE is solely to offer students the opportunity to enter courses on reduced points, recognising that they may not meet the points for their preferred course due to the impact of their disability.
It is also important to know that students who do not qualify for DARE may still access support at third-level, through the college disability office.
The HEAR access programme is designed to assist applicants from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds access third level on reduced points.
However, HEAR is not designed to offer support to those who may be suffering from a financial issue only. Applicants who are concerned about the cost of third level may be better served by applying for the SUSI grant.
Students who apply for HEAR must submit any documentation that was requested when they completed their online form. This is a personalised list, which was generated based on the answers they supplied. They may include statements from the social welfare office, P60s, etc. Documents should refer to the last financial year - i.e. from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016.
So, without wanting to create panic, if any student is planning to apply for either of these schemes and does not yet have their documentation in order, then this task should be prioritised today. It may also be prudent to send these documents by registered or priority post. All deadlines are extremely strict in order to ensure fairness.
Several thousand students enter college each year under either DARE or HEAR.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
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Q I am a Leaving Cert student and I am struggling with my CAO choices. I am interested in science as I study both chemistry and biology. I am considering a few courses but I am wondering which science course would be the best to get employment, I am very open to suggestions. I was also wondering is it necessary to get a master's or could you go into employment with just a degree?
A It really comes down to which is the best course for you, rather than which is best overall. If you are torn between two courses and wish to find out more about their employment stats, colleges survey graduates and if you make contact with the college, it will be able to provide you with this information.
It is possible to gain employment after completing your degree (BSc) however it is more common for those working in science to have a master's, or PhD - if they intend to stay in science-related work. Indeed, most graduates from all fields pursue some form of postgraduate study either before they enter employment or part-time, while they are working.
You may find you are better paid and progress quicker if you complete some form of postgraduate study - but you do not have to make these decisions today.
Also, remember that the degree itself is only a small part of what employers look for and it is the person, their experiences, abilities and, more importantly, transferable skills that will mark you out from the crowd after graduation.