The CAO main deadline has passed and 6th years and their parents will be feeling a sense of relief. But there is one more task for any young person with aspirations to go to college, and that is submitting an application(s) to a further education (FE) college(s).
When I hold my CAO evening for 6th-year parents each October, I tell them we will be encouraging every student to apply for a further education course, generally called a post-Leaving Cert (PLC) course. I do this because there really is something for everyone.
For school-leavers who wish to enter the world of work as soon as possible, FE colleges offer a wide variety of one- to two-year courses, which provide these young people with the skills, training and head start they need to do this.
For those wishing to enter third level, whether that be a university or an institute of technology, and are concerned about achieving the points or entry requirements at Leaving Cert, a further education course can offer an alternative route, allowing for entry based on results achieved in the course.
By doing a PLC in an area in which they are interested, students may find it easier to succeed than in the Leaving Cert, when they have to study a broad range of subjects.
A significant number of school-leavers are not ready to commit immediately to three or four years in higher education. Perhaps they are unsure that a particular field in which they are interested is really the right one for them. All of these students are well catered for by FE colleges, which provide courses in areas such as computer science, media studies, business administration, real estate, logistics, beauty and hairdressing, as well as specific pre-university courses.
For those who are focussed on achieving entry to a particular CAO course this autumn, a PLC is an excellent back-up and maximises a student's option in August. A large, and growing, number of CAO courses can be accessed with QQI Level 5 qualifications. For example, the general science courses at Trinity College Dublin have recently introduced places for applicants from the further education sector.
Some FE colleges provide courses that are specifically designed to give students the skills required to enter and be successful at third level - for example, pre-university science, liberal arts, and nursing studies. Other courses allow students to study related areas and build skills, such as academic referencing, that will help them achieve success at third level.
Many CAO courses will require applicants to present a particular FE qualification to be considered for entry, however, there are currently over 700 CAO courses that will consider any FE qualification for entry.
The FE colleges are currently holding their open days and interviews. General entry requirements for these courses are five ordinary level passes and applicants will be invited to attend an interview.
The interviewer will assess an applicant's interest, preparedness and general ability to succeed in the course.
There are no fixed closing dates for these courses and colleges will continue to meet and interview applicants until courses and waiting lists are filled. However, popular courses will fill on the first round of interviews, which are happening now, so it is important not to delay researching and applying for this sector any longer.
Q: I registered with the CAO, but I didn't list any courses! Have I ruled myself out of the CAO now? What should I do?
A: The closing date for normal applications to the CAO was February 1. It is preferable that applicants list their courses on their CAO application before this date, however, every year a large number of applicants do not manage to list any. Even if an applicant is uncertain about their final course choices, it is a very useful exercise to enter courses and think about order of preference before February 1, but, crucially, it is not necessary to have done so.
Most applicants can use the 'Change of Mind' period, which runs from May 5 until July 1, to add courses. During this time, applicants can make any changes they wish to their CAO list, and as often as they wish before July 1.
Changes include adding courses, deleting courses or changing the order of the course listed.
There is one important exception to this, which is anything that is categorised as a restricted entry course. These are courses that require applicants to fulfil some element beyond meeting CAO points and entry requirements in order to gain entry. This may be a test, interview or audition etc.
If an applicant would like to list a restricted course after February 1, they can add it to their application between February 5 and March 1 for a fee of €10.
CAO online facility to amend courses opens - €10 fee
Open day - Killester College of FE
Open day - Marino College of FE
Open day - Plunket Collegof FE
Open day - Trainee Jockey Course - RACE
Open evening - Ormonde College of FE
Portfolio submission deadline - National College of Art and Design
Try Theatre Studies - Waterford IT
Interview day - St Mary's University College, Belfast
BIS Make It Work Day - UCC
Open day - Ballsbridge College of FE
Interview day - Whitehall College of FE