Sixth-years, learn the ins and outs of the CAO application process
So what is the CAO? CAO stands for the Central Applications Office, which is responsible for processing applications to higher education institutions and issuing offers of places.
However, for most sixth-year students it means 'the form you fill out to go to third level'. What this means is that instead of having to fill out a different form for each college or course they may wish to attend, students simply fill out one form where they can enter up to 20 courses. Ten of these will be at Level 8 (honours degree) (see right) and 10 can be at Level 6 (higher certificate) or Level 7 (ordinary degree).
The CAO handbook has been distributed to schools and, if students have not yet received one, they can ask their guidance counsellor for a copy. It contains all the rules, regulations, practices, and key dates of the CAO process as well as a listing of all courses which can be applied for in 2014.
The handbook will also include an example of the paper application form. The CAO will provide paper applications forms and bank giros if required. Students can request them through their guidance counsellor. However, most applicants now use the online system as it allows changes to be made more easily, is cheaper and prevents students from making some of the most common errors.
The CAO application process opened yesterday and will remain open until February 1, 2014. During this time students can make as many changes as they wish to their application form so they should not be concerned about applying early.
The application form itself is very straightforward. The most difficult part of the process is choosing the right courses. However, it should be filled out carefully, ensuring that all relevant information has been given. A common mistake that can have very serious consequences for repeat candidates is not declaring past Leaving Certs. This means the CAO will not have access to previous results, school details, deferring details etc. Online applications can be made at cao.ie.
In order to be accepted for courses, students must meet all entry requirements. These include the matriculation for the institution. For example, students need to pass Irish or a foreign language for some colleges.
Students must also achieve specific subject requirements. Courses with a high maths element will require a certain grade in maths, some health courses require students to pass chemistry.
If these requirements are not met students will not be accepted to the courses irrespective of CAO points. Finally, students who have met all other requirements compete with each other on points for available places.
Over the next number of weeks this column will cover all aspects of the CAO application process. This will include deciding on the order of courses, how the CAO allocates places including points, offers, change of mind, grants and HEAR and DARE.
Important dates this week: Today Open day All Hallows College November 8 Open day Dundalk IT Open day IT Carlow (Wexford campus) November 9 Portfolio Brief Session NCAD Open day UCD November 12 Portfolio Brief Session NCAD November 13 Colaiste Dhulaigh – Campus day Open Day Letterkenny IT Open Day IT Tallaght Portfolio Brief Session NCAD November 14 Open day Ormonde College Kilkenny November 15 Open day Athlone IT Open day DCU Open day Galway Mayo IT (Castlebar) Open day IT Carlow (Carlow campus) Open day Tralee IT