Monday 19 March 2018

Going to College: Some tasks for February to lay path for success in exams and future study choices

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

The CAO deadline has passed, but exam students still have a busy time ahead. The 'mocks' have begun, or are fast approaching, deadlines for practical work are looming and language orals will be upon us soon. Here are some February tasks to help ensure the best possible outcomes in the months ahead.

Establish an excellent study routine

Many young people find that the mocks focus their thoughts and help them get down to some very productive work. Additionally, this 'practice run' shows students their strengths and weaknesses, which can result in the ability to work in a more productive way than before. Take full advantage of this new learning and make best use of the remaining four months.

Ensure you are happy with the CAO choices you have listed

Yes, the CAO deadline has passed but it can be helpful to revisit the order of preference list at some point in February. There is a facility available where changes can be made up to March 1 for the fee of €10. This means 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. If so, now is the time to fix it.


Any applicant who intends to apply for the HEAR or DARE schemes must have indicated their intention to do so by February 1. They must also complete the online supplementary information form by March 1: applicants may need the assistance of a parent for this, especially with regard to HEAR. Applicants must also collect and submit all supporting documentation by April 1. This can take a long time to collect and professionals, whether they're a hospital consultant or the special needs teacher at your school, require sufficient notice to complete these forms. Begin early.

Apply for PLC and prepare for interview

PLC, or further education (FE), courses offer excellent entry routes to third-level education. They allow students to gain an award that will assist them in accessing their chosen degree by studying an area in which they are both talented and interested. Applications can now be made to the majority of FE colleges. These colleges often don't have a deadline for application and will continue to take applications until all courses are filled, but places can fill early. If students have already applied for an FE course, they should now spend some time preparing for interview in order to secure these valuable places.

Watch for non-CAO opportunities

Many Sixth Years may be unsure college is for them. With the increase in apprenticeships, work opportunities and training programmes, this cohort will find more non-CAO opportunities than in the past decade. Many of these opportunities are advertised in spring so it is prudent to keep a close eye on careers' news websites and the media. One such is the ESB apprenticeships, for both electricians and electrical engineers, applications for which will be accepted up to March 14.

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

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