As the 2012 CAO application season draws to a close, today's column looks at the key stages ahead for CAO applicants.
As most college applicants know, the normal closing time and date for CAO application is 5.15pm on February 1. Applications received after that time are regarded as "late", and are subject to a higher fee, and the other restrictions that apply to late application.
(The dwindling number of applicants using the paper [as opposed to online] application should remember to get a certificate of postage as proof that they posted it before February 1.)
So what happens once you have submitted your application?
CAO will send a Statement Of Course Choices to all paper applicants by February 15 and to all late paper applicants by May 15. Online applicants already have a record of all their communications with CAO.
CAO will send all applicants a Statement of Application Record before the end of May.
Applicants may use a change-of-mind facility from early May to July 1, free of charge, if they want to change their order of preference, or introduce new courses (with the exception of restricted application courses).
Applicants who applied before February 1 may still add restricted courses to their course choices between February 5 and March 1, but an additional processing fee of €10 will be charged for this service.
CAO lists three reasons why people might need to use this amendment facility: if you have made an error or omission in restricted application courses; if you are a mature applicant who made an error or omission in your courses or have entered your date of birth incorrectly; or if you are applying to certain Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) and presenting certain qualifications other than Irish Leaving Certificate, Northern Irish or British GCEs, or FETAC Level 5 or 6. (See pages 4 and 16 of the CAO handbook for a list of the HEIs.)
If applicants want to make a change of mind that involves non-restricted courses -- and that is the majority of courses -- there is no need to do so during this time. It makes more sense for them to wait until the normal change-of-mind facility is opened, free of charge, between early May and July 1.
When the normal change-of-mind facility comes into operation, applicants may change their minds as many times as they want up to July 1.
Applicants may not introduce a restricted-application course to their list of course choices during this time, with the following exception: If a restricted course shares the exact same assessment procedures with a course an applicant has already applied for, it may be permitted to introduce it on a change of mind. Applicants should consult with the relevant HEI before introducing such a course.
Applicants may remove restricted courses from their list of course choices, if they wish to, or they may reorder them in their order of preference.
The change-of-mind facility is a great benefit of the CAO application system. It takes a lot of pressure off applicants, many of whom are not absolutely certain at this stage about all their courses choices, but with this facility, they are not confined to the course choices they list now. They still have time for further exploration of course choices.
NB. Taking up a deferral: Students who deferred accepting an offer from CAO last August/September should remember that in order to take up the deferred place in 2012, they must re-apply fully through CAO this year, pay the appropriate application fee and place the deferred course as their only preference on the application form. Applicants will have received a letter from the HEI in question when they deferred, and they should follow its instructions carefully. (Deferrals procedures are explained on page 5 of the handbook.)