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Going to college - virtual open days, PLCs and SUSI grants

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This year, there is a trend to virtual open days, or other online services such as Q&A sessions, and a number are in the diary for the days or weeks ahead. (stock photo)

This year, there is a trend to virtual open days, or other online services such as Q&A sessions, and a number are in the diary for the days or weeks ahead. (stock photo)

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This year, there is a trend to virtual open days, or other online services such as Q&A sessions, and a number are in the diary for the days or weeks ahead. (stock photo)

After some anxious and confusing weeks, the rescheduling of the Leaving Cert to the end of July/August has offered some clarification.

Although the situation may be far from ideal in the eyes of many students and their families, students should start planning accordingly.

When it comes to CAO, as of now, the process is proceeding as normal. Normally, at this time, 6th year students are focused on research in preparation for the CAO Change of Mind period.

This facility is scheduled to open on May 5 and, even if the CAO delays it, applicants should go about their course research in the same way as they would have previously.

All college websites, as well as careersportal.ie, are full of detailed information on CAO courses and are an excellent place to begin. Despite colleges being closed, their staff are still available to answer questions.

Traditionally, a number of higher education institutions hold spring open days, which can be useful in assisting CAO applicants to finalise decisions ahead of Change of Mind.

This year, there is a trend to virtual open days, or other online services such as Q&A sessions, and a number are in the diary for the days or weeks ahead. Each institution has slightly different structures for the day, however it is likely to involve a range of presentations or videos as well as an opportunity to submit questions or speak to staff and students directly.

A week of virtual open days is currently in full swing at Waterford IT (www.wit.ie/virtualopenday) and will continue until Friday. Academic and support staff are available to answer questions and those logged in can also see questions that have been asked by others. This will prove very useful, especially to those applicants who feel like they do not know where to start with their research.

Galway Mayo IT’s Virtual Open Day on Friday (openday.gmit.ie) will be complemented by weekly live online Q&A session every Friday from May 1.

For Maynooth University’s Virtual Open Day on Saturday, intending participants can submit questions ahead of time if they wish, as well as watch presentations, videos and tours. There will also be a live Q&A. Interested applicants should register (openday.maynoothuniversity.ie)

Dublin City University (DCU) is running live online Q&A sessions on its CAO Hub all week , focusing on different course areas each day. Staff can also answer general questions on entry requirements, accommodation, student supports

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Here is a guide to dates and times:

  • Waterford IT – all week (2pm-4pm each , plus 10am-12noon today)
  • Dublin City University (DCU) - live Q&A sessions all week (from 2pm-4pm)
  • Galway Mayo IT- April 24
  • Letterkenny live Q&A session April 24 (7 pm-7.30pm)

  • Maynooth University -April 25 (10:30am - 3:00pm)
  • Dundalk Institute of Technology May 6 (10am - 7pm)
  • NUI Galway May 7 (12noon-3pm)
  • Carlow Institute of Technology -May 29 (10.30am-4pm)
  • Athlone Institute of Technology - Ongoing throughout April and May
  • Limerick IT - virtual open days from mid-May. From early May, live, online Q&A sessions

Other institutions, such as UCD and UCC, have introduced dedicated sections to their website which should answer any questions related to the current change in circumstances. UCC has also introduced a one to one video portal discussion.

As always, preparation in key to a successful open day. This means reading course descriptions, and general information about the college, identifying questions and comparing what is available at this institution to what you may have seen in other colleges.

A small amount of preparation will ensure that potential applicants get the most from these days even if the format will be very different from the past.

Further education colleges are continuing to accept applications for post-Leaving Cert (PLC) courses. Traditionally these colleges invite students for interviews. Obviously this is not currently possible, so other arrangements are being made. Some are waiving the interview process altogether and will offer places to all qualifying applicants on a first come, first served basis.

Given the uncertainty around the exams and many feeling like they may not perform to their best, it is essential to apply for FE courses as soon as possible.

Another important task for all CAO and FE applicants to mark off their checklist is applying for the SUSI grant. Grant applications will open tomorrow, April 23.

The process is the same as in previous years and all potential applicants should use the Eligibility Reckoner on susi.ie. This will give a good idea as to whether or not an application will be successful.

Applicants who feel that they may be eligible for this scheme as a result of a change of circumstances due to Covid -19 can use the change of circumstance provision to have their application assessed. SUSI continues to operate a support desk: support@susi.ie and Phone: 0761 08 7874.

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

Online Editors