Sunday 18 August 2019

Going to College: There are plenty of resources to help in the search for the right college course

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Aoife Walsh

The CAO application season is in full swing and, in between study sessions, students should be busily researching their options. Parents tend to want to help this process, but many teenagers are a little less than communicative.

There is a wealth of easily understandable information available to guide students and parents through this process. Even families who have been through the CAO process previously will find it worthwhile to check out the various resources, to ensure they are getting the most up-to-date information.

Here are a few of my favourites: Course Finder

A relatively new addition to my bag of tricks, this has been my go-to course search for almost a year. I like it for a number of reasons; it links with the REACH career and college preparation programme, which many guidance counsellors use in careers' class; it's easy to flick between the CAO and the further education sector; it's clearly laid out, and with detailed course descriptions.

However, what I like most about this course search is the filters: students can exclude courses from certain areas of the country, courses that require certain subjects, or match with their career interest results (the interest test is also available on the site).

Applicants can then save their courses in an easy-to-use personal file. The file can be revisited later to rank courses in order of preference.

Applying for Medicine

Many applicants who are interested in applying for medicine head straight to HPAT Ireland in an attempt to understand the process in general and how points are broken down. While this website is helpful and should not be skipped, year after year I find myself returning to the 'Applying for Medicine' pdf available on the CAO website.

This pdf offers a summary of how the points and HPAT systems works, as well as the entry requirement for every medical degree in the country and more. There is also a version for graduate medicine. Both are essential and easy reading for anyone considering entering this field of study.

CAO Handbook

Every Leaving Cert student will receive the CAO Handbook from their school. If they have not, they should contact the guidance counsellor or the CAO directly to request one. This book contains all the rules and regulations of the CAO, key dates and a full list of courses that are available for application in 2018.

If a student has a question about the CAO, the answer will be in this book. Over the past few years, the CAO has redesigned the layout, resulting in a much more user-friendly resource.

Additionally, applicants can use this book as a research tool, highlighting any courses they would like to find out more about as well as checking the awards on offer, restricted entry status and course codes.


Many parents never get to see the CAO Handbook. Why not ask that it be rooted out from the bottom of the bag and take a look! calendar of events

The calendar of event on has been a go-to for me when checking college open day dates etc. It is easy to use and applicants can find information on CAO, UCAS, further education, and other events and deadlines, all in the one place. I recommend my students to check in with it regularly to plan which events and open days they would like to attend.

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

Irish Independent

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