Saturday 16 December 2017

First college application deadline looming

Guidance counsellor, Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor, Aoife Walsh

The first deadline for UCAS, the central processing agency for university applications to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is fast approaching: the October 15 cut-off is for applications to medicine, dentistry and veterinary studies, as well as Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Medicine, Veterinary, Dentistry

Students may apply for up to five courses. Only four of their five choices can be from medicine, veterinary or dentistry and should be listed in the order in which they appear in the UCAS handbook. The vast majority of health-related courses in the UK also require students to take an admissions test. This may be the UKCAT, BMAT, HPAT UK (different from HPAT Ireland) or the GAMSAT (graduate medicine only). The two main tests are the UKCAT and the BMAT. Students should check which test the institution requires. Registration for the UKCAT is now closed, but registered students may continue to book tests until October 5. Students may register to take the BMAT until October 1, and late registration remains open until October 15. This assessment is required for admission to Oxford and Cambridge, among other institutions. Unlike the UKCAT, which is an aptitude test, the BMAT includes a section on scientific knowledge and its application.

Oxford and Cambridge

Applicants may place only one course from either Oxford or Cambridge on their UCAS application. Admissions to each of these institutions are highly competitive, but both are relatively open with regards to what they are seeking: they are looking for excellent grades, but will take extenuating circumstances and the type of school the student attends into account - such as one with a weak tradition of sending pupils to third level.

Students must submit a personal statement as well as a reference. The personal statement should clearly communicate the applicant's interest in the subject area for which they are applying as well as their knowledge and critical thinking in the area to date. Students will also have the opportunity to nominate their college.

This element of the application often causes Irish applicants far more concern than necessary. Both Oxford and Cambridge are broken down by colleges.

This system is unlike anything in Ireland. Each college is where the student stays and where they take their tutorials. Applicants can choose which college they would prefer, or they can complete an open application where the university will assign them to a college. Whichever route the students chooses it should not affect the applicant's chance of success. Applicants may also be asked to submit written work, complete an interview or take an assessment. More information on completing a UCAS application can be found on

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin.

Important dates


Ulster University Magee - Open Day


BT young Scientist Exibition - Deadline for applications

Institute of Guidance Counsellors Midwest Careers Exhibition - Limerick racecourse


Teagasc - Open Day College of Amenity Horticulture, Botanic Gardens

Galway-Mayo IT Castlebar Jobs of the Future 2015

Gurteen Agricultural College - Open Day

Institute of Guidance Counsellors Careers and Courses Fair - Ormonde Hotel Kilkenny


Teagasc - Open Day Ballyhaise Agricultural College

Teagasc - Open Day Kildalton Agricultual College

NUI Galway - Open Days (2 days)


Question: How do you know what the CAO points for a particular course will be?

Aoife replies: There is no way of knowing what the points for any course will be in advance. When offering places, the CAO lists all applicants for a particular course who achieved all entry requirements in order of the amount of points they have achieved in their Leaving Cert. If a course has 100 places then those places will be offered to the first 100 people on this list. The cut-off points for that course are the amount of points achieved by the last person on that list to be offered a place. This is why points change every year.

As courses become more popular and more people apply, the cut-off points tend to rise. So, the points are affected by how many people apply and how well those people perform at Leaving Cert. Therefore it is impossible to predict the exactly what the points will be for any particular course in any given year.

Irish Independent

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