By now the majority of students have been given their own copy of the CAO Handbook 2017. This, along with the CAO website www.cao.ie, is a vital source of information, application procedures, and important dates. Keep it nearby at all times.
Some opening/closing dates
CAO applications may be made online from noon on November 4 2016. Courses selected from that date can be amended up to 5.15pm on January 31 2017 for no extra charge. Discounted fee of €25 applies before 5.15pm on January 20 2017. The normal fee of €40 then applies up to 5.15pm on February 1 2017.
Online amending course choices is available from noon on February 6 2017 to 5.15pm on March 1 2017 – the fee is €10.
Restricted course applicants, mature applicants, and applicants to the HEAR and DARE schemes all have specific dates and procedures to adhere to. The opening pages of the CAO Handbook 2017 outline these in great detail.
College prospectus, websites, and open days
This year students need to pay particular attention to the new HEI Common Points Scale and consult individual college prospectuses, and individual colleges, if necessary, to confirm the requirements for their individual courses.
Contact details for participating higher education institutions (HEIs ) are listed on the inside cover of the CAO Handbook 2017. Read the individual college prospectus/website for each course you are considering and visit the open day if possible. The website www.qualifax.ie is also a valuable resource.
Some students seem to have known ‘forever’ the exact course and career that they wish for themselves, while other students become totally panicked, thinking that they should be equally certain.
Each student is different. Helping a student to recognise his or her own individuality and potential is a good place to start. This can begin with listing his/her Leaving Certificate subjects in order of preference. Even within this simple list a student has the means to identify or eliminate certain courses or careers.
Along with listing subject preferences, this is, again, where current and expected Leaving Certificate results come into play.
Working within the reality of ‘best’ and ‘second-best’, and maybe even ‘third-best’, of such expected results, a student has now a further benchmark with which to consider a list of courses. Eliminating courses or careers a student may not like is also a valuable part of finally choosing a particular course or career.
These possibilities may now give definite encouragement for a student to sit down and structure and plan his/her homework and study in a more meaningful and hopeful way.
For many students, location is another key factor, as studying ‘close to home’ is still a necessity for many students.
This ‘close to home’ rule may have to be extended should a student wish to study specific courses, available only in distant colleges. But, for the majority of students, ‘close to home’ is the best place to start, both from a financial and emotional point of view.
We still have some of the youngest students in the world, starting third-level, with some of our Leaving Certificate students still only 17 years of age.
Many first-time college parents and students are still reeling with the shock of the sudden and unexpected cost of ‘going to college’ this current academic year. All parents and students need to sit down and discuss such costs, in advance, beginning with the very mention of the CAO application.
While many parents have been in the fortunate position to have planned and provided for college, right from the birth of each child, there are many families, where to even get their children to Leaving Certificate has been a struggle, with little left over to put aside.
This is the time to talk to such providers as your credit union – planning, even with just one year to go. It is also important for parents to discuss, with their children, the reality of how they as family can support ‘going to college’ for their son or daughter. And, for many Irish families, this can mean one, two, or three children in college at the same time.
Should you consider that you might be applying for a maintenance fee/grant (SUSI ), you may now indicate this on your CAO online application. You will also need to apply direct to SUSI so visit www.studentfinance.ie or www.susi.ie to complete the necessary steps.
Three golden rules
Ideally you should like the college you hope to study in.
Know each subject you will study, and need to pass, year-by-year.
Finally, think through where each course will lead you. How do you feel about that?
Final closing date for CAO change of mind is 5.15pm on July 1 2017, with an exceptional closing date for late applications for those already attending a participating HEI of July 22 2017 at 5.15pm.
Marie Barrett is founder of MBCS, Marie Barrett Career Services, Loughrea, Co Galway. She is author of The Education Guide and contributes to national and local radio education programmes. MBCS works individually with second-level students and parents in student career, study and education planning. Contact: 091 841424/086 2359751 or [email protected].