Saturday 21 September 2019

Going to college: Important to read all sections of CAO form

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

Aoife Walsh

This week we look at some sections of the CAO form which students may not be conscious of at this early stage. However, they are very important and are relevant to many applicants.

SUSI - grant application

The first section on the account home page which is not related to courses, but which must be attended to, concerns SUSI, the organisation responsible for processing grant applications. This section is very easy. The CAO is simply seeking permission to share an applicant's information with SUSI. Ticking the box will allow SUSI to know if the applicant has been offered a place, if they have accepted a place and which institution they will attend, ensuring that the grant application proceeds as smoothly as possible, so there are no delays in autumn.

CAO applicants may not yet be sure if this section is relevant to them, but if they are considering applying for a grant, they should tick this box just in case.

Applicants and their parents may wish to use the eligibility reckoner on to explore whether they are likely to qualify. SUSI itself will begin accepting applications in late spring/early summer.

Learning difficulties

CAO applicants will be asked to indicate if they have a disability or a specific learning difficulty. The purpose of this section is to allow the college to be aware that an applicant may have some needs. If the applicant decides to declare a disability or specific learning difficulty then the college is likely to contact them for more information, but it is up the applicant whether or not to accept this support.

The supports offered by colleges for those with disabilities or learning difficulties are both practical and much easier to access than at second level. I would highly recommend all applicants who fall into this category to indicate it on the CAO form. This will allow the applicant to find out more about the supports on offer; they can then choose to access these supports, or not.

Once an applicant has indicated that they have a disability or a learning difficultly they will then see an option to apply for the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE). This is a reduced points entry route and completely separate from the support that institutions offer. We will explore DARE further next week.


There is also a section about the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) scheme, a reduced points entry route for students who come from an educationally disadvantaged background, the first criterion for which relates to income. If an applicant does not qualify for the HEAR programme they may skip this section. We will explore the HEAR programme further next week.

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

Question: I know I want to go to college and I like school. All my friends seem to know what they want to do and I don't know where to start.

Aoife replies: Firstly, remember that making such decisions is a process. You will not wake up one morning suddenly knowing what to do. You must actively participate in this process working through options with an open mind.

If you have taken any aptitude/interest test, revisit the results. You may need to see your guidance counsellor if you cannot remember what they mean. Ask them to suggest some courses/career areas that match these results. If you have not taken this type of test there are very good free ones available in the self-assessment section of the website, Remember you will use these results to point your research in the right direction and not to base all your career decisions upon. You can also begin to research by college. When you have some research done make an appointment with the guidance counsellor, to clarify your thoughts.

Important dates


Cavan & Monaghan ETB Career Event - Monaghan Education Campus

IGC Kerry Careers Fair - Malton Hotel, Killarney


IT Carlow - Open Day

NUI Galway Information Evening - Radisson Blu Hotel, Athlone

St Patrick's College Thurles - Open Day

November 20

Church of Ireland College of Education Info Day (2 days)

Cork IT Crawford College of Art and Design Open Day (2 days)

Cork IT Open Day

DCU - Open Day (2 days)

Letterkenny IT - Open Day

Limerick IT, Clonmel - Digital Design Careers Day

November  21

BIMM Institute Dublin Open Day

CIT Cork School of Music - Open Day for CR121, CR125-129, CR700

Marino Institute of Education Open Day

St Patrick's, Drumcondra Open Day

Open University, Dublin - Open Day

November 24

IGC Carlow Careers Day - Woodford Dolmen Hotel, Carlow

IT Blanchardstown - Open day/evening

UCC Parent information Evening

Irish Independent

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