Katherine Donnelly: Don't panic if you didn't get your preferred CAO choice, there's more than one route to college
Congratulations to the 50,746 CAO applicants who received college offers today.
Most should be happy because at least four in five have received one of their top three choices.
A total of 42,301 offers were made for honours degree (Level 8) courses and over half of those, 22,095, were for courses that school-leavers had placed at the top of their list. Overall, 80pc got their first, second or third preference.
The success rate was even higher at levels 7 and 6, where 31,351 offers were made. Here, some 88pc of applicants received their top preference and 98pc got one of their top three.
Inevitably, some are disappointed: those who either got no offer or one that was way down their list.
There are others who did the Leaving Cert in June but never applied to the CAO and are still wondering what to do next.
There will be those who received an offer for a high choice course, and who may already have decided that they don't want it.
The good news is that there are plenty of options available, and this supplement highlights various routes.
Among the inspiring stories on these pages are those of students on honours degree programmes in universities without having achieved the minimum CAO points, because of alternative pathways available.
We are seeing the roll-out of more apprenticeships and traineeships, which suit students who favour a more-hands on approach to gaining a qualification, while being paid at the same time. Apprenticeships can be a path to qualifications up to master's level, and have moved beyond the traditional trades, such as in construction and engineering, to white-collar jobs including insurance, accounting and, new this year, auctioneering.
Research tells us that the education system and the Leaving Cert do not suit everyone's style of learning, so it is essential for anyone disappointed today not to measure themselves by the number of points they accumulated in the exams and to put their energy into deciding what they would like to do, and find out how to go about it.
If progression to higher or further education is not on the agenda for a school-leaver this year they should keep that thought alive, because pursuing a field of study in which you are interested is a pathway to a fulfilling career and life.
There is lots of support out there for anyone who needs guidance, including the National Parents Council Helpline, which is open today, tomorrow and Wednesday.
Throughout these pages, Aoife Walsh, guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin, and regular Irish Independent columnist, shares advice and information to guide both those holding a CAO offer and those who do not.
There is a host of other features to assist students to navigate the transition from school to college, and we also have some tips for parents on how to loosen the strings gently. The kids are moving on, but they will still need family support and, most of all, love, while they are in college.
Key dates for your diary
Monday, August 20
- 6am: CAO Round 1 offers released online. Applicants who have not received an offer will receive a Statement of Application Record.
- Noon: State Examinations Commission online Appeals Application Service opens.
Tuesday, August 21
- Deadline for return of applications - to the candidate's school - to view Leaving Cert scripts.
- Noon: CAO Available Places open.
Friday, August 24
- 5.15pm: Deadline for acceptance of Round 1 offers.
Wednesday, August 29
- 10am: CAO Round 2 offers released online.
Friday, August 31
- 5.15pm. Deadline for acceptance of Round 2 offers.
Friday, August 31/ Saturday September 1
- Viewing of exam scripts in schools.
Monday, September 3
- 4pm: Deadline for receipt by schools of applications for rechecks. Schools forward them to the SEC.
- Results of Leaving Cert rechecks released.
Wednesday, October 17
- 5.15pm: CAO makes final offers based on results of rechecks.