Friday 23 August 2019

Tackling that CAO form with confidence

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

This week the CAO process opens applications for entry to college next autumn. From November 5, applicants can register to apply for the CAO online and begin entering their personal details and course choices.

The form is very simple to complete. Indeed the most difficult part of completing it is deciding the courses for which to apply, and in what order.

The online form could be considered a file, which saves the applicants information rather than a form that must be 'sent'. Applicants can begin to enter information on the form and continue to return to it, to edit or add to it, until February 1, and it is worth making an early start if only to familiarise yourself with it.

How it works

The CAO website contains useful resources that will assist applicants and parents to complete the process with confidence. These include a parents' information booklet, short videos on how to complete the form, how the offers process work etc.

One of the most useful resources on the website is the 'interactive demo', which can be found in the student resources sections. This allows applicants, or their parents, to complete a demo application form before tackling the real version.

This can help reassure applicants that the form is simpler than expected and can give them confidence. It also puts parents in a better position to support their child.

Application fees

To begin, applicants will need access to a credit or debit card.

If there is no credit or debit card available, a bank giro can be requested through the school guidance counsellor or from the CAO. The fee for starting the application before January 20 is €25. Applicants should begin the process, as early as possible even if they are not sure the courses for which they wish to apply, as they can return later to complete the course choices.

Check all pages

While the form itself is straightforward, applicants should ensure they read it carefully and check all pages. By missing important sections applicants can jeopardise their opportunity to receive offers.

For example, on page two, applicants are asked to indicate if they are taking the Leaving Cert this year and if they have ever taken the Leaving Cert in previous years. If repeat Leaving Cert applicants fail to indicate that they have previously taken the Leaving Cert, the CAO will not be able to access the results of the previous sitting.

Once the application is made, students should retain their CAO number, for all communications with the CAO, and their statement of courses. They should also check all correspondence carefully.

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

Question: I am in 6th year. I feel like I am spending all my time doing homework, with not enough time to revise.

Aoife replies: I hear this complaint constantly at this time of year. However, remember that the Leaving Cert curriculum is a two year course and you are only mid-way through.

At the beginning of 6th year, teachers pile on the work to ensure courses are completed in good time. As the year progresses, you will find that the balance of new work versus revision gradually shifts more towards revision. Meanwhile, try not to feel that spending time on homework is a waste. All this work is examinable and rushing through it in order to revise just means you have to spend more time on it later in the year.

Think of homework as revision the teacher tells you to do, and do it to the best of your ability the first time round. This will save you time in the long run. Then ensure you revise well for your class tests and do any other revision of old material.

Important dates


CAO 2016 - Online application facility opens

NUI Galway Information Evening - Ennis


Maynooth University Drop In Day - Kilkenny Campus

National College of Art & Design - Portfolio brief information sessions

UCD - Open Day


National College of Art & Design - Portfolio Brief Information Sessions

Careers Fair - Banagher College, Co Offaly


UCC - Parent information evening


IT Tallaght - Open Day

Ormonde College of Further Education - Open Evening

UCD Chemistry - Open Evening

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