Monday 14 October 2019

Aim for the stars with CAO choices, but also have a safety net in place

Mary O'Donnell

Even at this late stage, many applicants are still very uncertain about their CAO course choices, as some queries illustrate.

Q My daughter is spending a lot of time thinking about changing her CAO course choice preferences, as she says she cannot concentrate properly on the exams until she has sorted that out. I am advising her to concentrate on her study now, and to wait until the exams are over before she uses the change of mind facility, as she will have a better idea of what points she may have got. Which of us is right?

A You are right to tell her that she will have time to use the CAO change- of-mind facility after the exams are over – the facility remains open until July 1.

However, I worry a little when you say that: "She will have a better idea of what points she may have got", as it suggests that she should use her predicted points scores to determine her preferences.

It is always worth reminding applicants that they should not change their mind on the basis of how they believe they have done in their examinations, because they are often poor judges of their own performance.

They should place their course choices in order of genuine preference, and leave room for safety nets – in other words, some less competitive course choices (that they would still enjoy doing) after their more competitive higher preferences.

If they allow a predicted points score to determine their choices, they may rule themselves out of courses for which they may actually get the points.

CAO encourages students to apply for courses in order of genuine preference regardless of points, and this is the only advice that one can follow, because if you fail to apply for a course because you think you won't get the points, and then you actually achieve those points, you will not be offered the place.

However, realistically speaking, if an applicant puts down 10 course choices, all of which usually require points in excess of, say, 500 points, they may actually get no offers at all.

So applicants should be sure to spread their options, cover all bases, as it were. Aim for the stars, by all means, but have the safety nets in place.

It is understandable that your daughter, like most other students, would like to have her CAO choices sorted out.

Even if she uses the change- of-mind facility now, and then sees how she feels about those course preferences after the exams are over, she may still use the change of mind facility again up to July 1.

Another applicant explained: "I have done a lot of research and there is a huge amount of information on the internet through the CAO, Qualifax, all the universities and other college websites, but sometimes I end up feeling more confused than ever."

A It is true that one can end up with a feeling of information overload, although it is great that information can be accessed so easily and speedily through all the sources that are now available.

But information about courses is only half of the equation.

Your own understanding of your interests and your abilities (helped by the insights of those who know you, like your parents, guidance counsellor and teachers), will help you narrow down choices still further.

It is vital to like the subjects on the course you are planning to study.

It is as important to consider how you will get through the next four or so years of a college course, as to think about what job you might get at the end of a course that you did not enjoy. If you do not like the course, you may never graduate.

Irish Independent

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