Friday 19 January 2018

Testing times: How to make the right decision when it comes to filling out your CAO form

The latest of our entries in an Irish Independent student journalist competition, in association with

Sophie McDermott

WHEN it comes to filling out your CAO, it can be – to put it mildly – a bit of a head wreck to figure out what you want to put down as your first choice.

You may already know what kind of course you want to do. But the fear of not getting the course in a college that has higher points can cause you to wonder if you should just put down a course with less points?

It’s these kinds of choices we have to make that can cause applying for college to be a stressful and confusing time.

So what can you do to make the process simpler and more effective?

First off, tempting as it is, you should not put down a course in a college that you’re not keen on going to just because it has less points than the college that you really want. Yes, it’s scary but don’t let fears of not getting enough points put you off going for what you really want.

Points change every year and this may be a good or a bad thing. What can be worse is finding out that you got enough points for your preferred college but as it wasn’t your first choice, you haven’t been offered it. Points are what you strive for during the year - not what you settle on because you just want to go to any college.

When it comes to putting your CAO courses into order, always put down your most preferred top five and then fill in the blanks with the rest. Chances are, you’ll be offered one of your first three, so it’s imperative to make sure that these are the courses you really want.

The Leaving Cert exam is tough enough, so don’t add pressure on yourself by focusing your efforts on figuring out what course you have more of a chance of getting. Go with the course that you know you want to pursue a career in and the rest will sort itself out.

Filling out your CAO is a motivational time when studying for the Leaving Cert, so follow your heart and then work to get the points you need and deserve.

* Sophie McDermott is a journalism student at UL

If you’re a student who can write concise, topical stories and is deeply engaged in student life, join the Contributors’ Competition and your stories could be published on Ireland’s most popular news website,, this semester.

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