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You can still change course and apply for another through CAO

Q Is it possible for a first-year student in a university to apply for a new course next autumn? If so, should he make an application to the CAO by February 1?

A There is nothing to stop a first-year student applying to a new course through CAO this coming autumn. The exact procedures depend on where he or she might be applying, and the reason for applying to a new course.

If the student wants to change to another course in the same college, they should talk to the student adviser or admissions officer in their own college. They will tell the applicant whether to apply through CAO or not.

As far as the timing of CAO application goes, the normal closing date of February 1 applies to applicants (whether they are school leaving, non standard or mature). This date would also apply to applicants who are currently undergraduates. Any applicant may also make a late application, subject to the normal restrictions, up to May 1.

There is even an additional facility for undergraduate applicants, listed on page five of CAO's handbook whereby students who are currently in any year of one of the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) using CAO may make a late application to another college place, to arrive in CAO by July 22, subject to the usual conditions for late applications. There are certain restrictions to this exceptional late application, all listed in the handbook.

If a student wants to withdraw from their course, it is advisable in most cases to do so before February 1, because staying on longer affects their fees situation.

The free tuition fees scheme, such as it is, applies only to first time undergraduates for one year at each level. So if an applicant completed first year in one course, and then started in the first year of a new course next autumn, they would not be entitled to free tuition fees in the first year of the new programme. However, if they withdraw before February 1, they would lose just half of their first year tuition fees entitlement in the new programme, as the scheme currently operates.

On the other hand, an undergraduate applicant to a new course may plan to finish the current course to the end of this academic year, because that leaves more options open. If they are not successful in their application to the new course in the autumn, they could continue into second year of their course if they wanted to.

Q How will another college know they should charge fees to an entrant?

A CAO applicants who have attended, or who are attending, a third-level institution must indicate this on the appropriate section of the application form. If they have withdrawn from a course before completing it, they are required to enclose a certificate of attendance showing the dates of entry and withdrawal.

If they are still attending a HEI, they must give details of the institution they are attending, the course they are taking, the dates of attendance and their current status.

Open days today: l National College of Ireland, IFSC, D 1 (full-time courses open day 11am--3pm) l Ballsbridge College of Further Education, Dublin 4 (11am--3pm) l Coláiste Dhúlaigh College of Further Education, Dublin 17 (3pm--9pm) l Dun Laoghaire College of Further Education, Cumberland St, Co Dublin (10am--4pm) l Dunboyne College of Further Education, Co Meath (2pm--4pm) l Marino College of Further Education, Dublin 3 (11am--3pm) l Whitehall College of Further Education, Dublin 9 (4.30pm--8.30pm)

Irish Independent