Going to College: Tomorrow is the CAO deadline, but you have more time to consider your choices
Tomorrow at 5.15pm is the general deadline for CAO applications. There are students all over the country who may still be struggling to find more than one or two courses for which to apply.
Sometimes this may occur if students have been a little close-minded during their research; it is easy to become focused on one particular course and then find it difficult to consider other options.
Potential applicants may have restricted their research to one or two colleges or geographical locations. Or, perhaps, the student is interested in a specific area of study, such as veterinary, which is not widely available.
It is important to try and be open-minded during your research for appropriate CAO courses. Trying to find as many 'maybe' courses as possible rather than the perfect course can be helpful. Also, considering alternative entry routes may result in a wider selection of courses and, ultimately, more options.
Once an applicant has come up with one or two courses in which they are interested, it can be helpful to ask: "If I did not get into this course, what would be the next best thing to do?"; "Would I still like to study this subject, perhaps in a different college?"; "Would I consider a different area of study?"; "Is there a more general degree available which may lead me into this career area in the future?"
Hopefully, at this stage, intending applicants have asked themselves some or all of these questions and the answers helped to direct them to the next step.
Even for students who have done nothing with regards to research for a CAO application, the most important task now is to register before 5.15pm tomorrow and receive a CAO number. Once an applicant has done that, they are in the CAO system and have no danger of being considered a late applicant.
Next, the applicant should check if any of the courses for which they may wish to apply are restricted. Restricted entry courses must be listed on the CAO by February 1 and may not be added during the 'change of mind' period. If an applicant is considering any restricted courses, they should be added to their CAO form now, even if the applicant would like to do more research or are unsure about the course. They can be removed later if applicants prefer.
If an applicant has no courses to add at this stage, it is permissible to leave the course lists blank. Courses, with the exception of restricted courses, can be added during the 'change of mind' period, which runs from May 5 to July 1, giving those coming late to the process a little more time to research.
Remember that the CAO is designed so that applicants can be considered for a large number of courses. It is essential students apply for as many courses as possible. The CAO cannot offer applicants courses for which they have not applied.
Applicants may struggle to fill all their CAO options if they are reluctant to apply for courses they would really enjoy because they are concerned they will not achieve enough points.
All candidates should fill out the CAO form in order of preference only. This will allow students to place their 'dream' course as the top choice, even if they are unsure they will achieve the entry requirements or points. If the student does better than they expect in the Leaving Cert, or the minimum entry points fall, they may then be considered for the course. Other courses should be listed below, in order of preference.
Students should check their completed CAO application and ensure there are at least one or two courses, on both the Level 8 and Level 7/6 lists, to which they are confident of gaining entry. By doing this, applicants will be considered for their 'dream' courses but will still have plenty of other options if they don't quite meet the entry requirements or points needed.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin