Thursday 22 August 2019

It’s College Awareness Week — and that goes for parents as well as their children

Contact Aoife at Twitter: @edguidance. Photo: Tony Gavin
Contact Aoife at Twitter: @edguidance. Photo: Tony Gavin

Aoife Walsh

Research shows that parents, particularly mothers, can play an influential role in CAO decision-making. Many parents contact me for help with the process, often because their teenagers do not openly share information with them.

These parents want to give their children independence and space to make important decisions, but also want to be informed themselves about how these choices should be made.

If parents find themselves with a particularly quiet teenager, there are many places they can go to inform themselves on the process and this week - College Awareness Week - is a great time to start.

College Awareness Week has been running for four years and is a welcome feature in the academic calendar. The week aims to encourage students to seriously consider third level as an option for them. Events take place all over the country, including careers exhibitions, talks and other events.

More information can be found on the website,, which includes some resources for parents, such as 'helping your child to become college aware' and 'encouraging an interest in STEM'.

The CAO itself is also a great source of information for both parents and students. In recent years, the CAO has improved the variety and clarity of resources available to parents and students who are attempting to navigate the process.

The CAO handbook used to be dense and heavy and a frustratingly difficult read, even for the most dedicated 18-year-old. Not anymore. The handbook is now much clearer, easy to navigate and, as always, contains the answers to the most obscure questions. It has received a complete overhaul in recent years, as has the CAO website.

The website now contains an excellent student resources section, which includes video guides for parents and students. All intending applicants and parents should view these video guides. The website explains, in a very easy to understand format, why many of the CAO rules exist, such as why applicants should complete their CAO form in order of preference.

Additionally, it allows students to understand why cut-off points are at a particular level, how offers are awarded and what happens on different rounds.

When an applicant and their parents understand how decisions are made within the CAO and why applicants receive the offers they do, it can help guide decision-making around the process, as well as reducing anxiety about making a mistake.

There is also a comprehensive parents' guide in the 'student resource' section. Once again this includes a video guide as well as written material, which will support both the first-time parent and those who have been on this journey before but would like a better understanding of the process.

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

Irish Independent

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