CAO applicants have until February 1 to submit their application form. Many applicants can find this process confusing as the CAO allows application to three separate levels on two lists. Applicants should place Level 8 courses on one list and Level 7 and 6 courses on the other. It is possible for applicants to be offered a place on courses from both lists.
A Level 8 degree is also known as an honours degree. This is what many people think of when they think of a traditional university degree.
They are generally four years in duration, with some notable exceptions. Architecture, for example, is five years and arts degrees are often three years, although more four-year options are available from this year.
Students mainly apply for these courses through the CAO, with some private colleges also offering Level 8 courses, outside of the CAO system.
Leaving Cert students must meet the minimum entry requirements and any essential subject requirement for these courses and then compete with other students on the basis of CAO points to win a place. Minimum requirements for all Level 8 courses are normally two H5 grades and four O6 grades (with the exception of Trinity College Dublin which requires three H5 and three O6/H7).
Once those requirements are met, it is the competition for places - which depends on the demand for any given courses and the number of places on it - that determines the cut-off points.
Level 8 programmes are offered at universities, Institutes of technology, private colleges and training colleges.
Level 7 degrees are known as ordinary degrees. They are generally three years in duration and students mainly apply for these courses through the CAO, while some private colleges offer Level 7 courses outside the CAO. Students are required to meet the minimum entry requirements, essential subjects and then compete for places on the basis of points. Many institutions require a student to achieve five O6/H7 grades for entry to Level 7 although there are some exceptions. Essential subject requirements are also lower at Level 7.
For example, a student wishing to study engineering at Level 8 in DIT will require a H4 in math while engineering courses at Level 7 in DIT require an O4/H7 in math. Level 7 degrees are offered at universities, institutes of technology, and private colleges. Minimum CAO points tend to range from AQA to late 400s.
The majority of Level 7 courses contain an option of an 'add on' year.
This makes it possible for students to complete one extra year and receive a Level 8 qualification.
In order to identify if a level 7 course offers an add-on year, a student can check their CAO handbook. If the course offers an 'add on' year, the third column of the handbook will contain the letters 'DG+HD'. DG indicates that the course is a degree while +HD indicates that an add-on year is available to achieve an honours degree.
I will deal with Level 6 next week.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin