Making a good start to CAO Application 2017 this month


The normal closing date for CAO Application 2017 is Wednesday February 1 at 5.15pm, with an online facility to amend course choices from February 6 to March 1 at 5.15pm.

Few deadlines so concentrate the mind of young Leaving Certificate students, not to mention their equally committed and anxious parents.

And while it is an anxious time for many, it is also a wonderful stepping-stone in the life of a young person: a bridge between all those years of second-level and the now exciting years of third-level ahead.

While there is a final Change of Mind closing date on Saturday July 1 2017, also at 5.15pm, now is the time for each student and parent to sit down and thoughtfully analyse the many options and choices open to each student. And there is where the challenge really begins.


While you will always encourage a student to believe in his or her dreams and to not, initially, let academic reality totally set the barrier on career choices, for there are so many pathways that can be followed, it is best that a student does take consideration of his/her recent Christmas results and work from there.

Apart from potential CAO points ahead, the subject requirements of each course will always need to be taken into consideration. This information is available on each college prospectus or website, together with resources such as and The CAO Handbook 2017 also gives the contact details of each college and course. This is the rock-bottom information line each student needs to work from.

Initial course choices

This is the next line of thinking a student needs to work on. For the courses a student will put down in January can be changed right up to July 1 2017 — an entire week, or more, after each student has completed the Leaving Certificate examination.

This should allow most students a sense of time and choice and eliminate unnecessary panic in their initial choices. The online Change of Mind facility becomes available on Friday May 5 2017 at noon.

The only courses that must be entered on a student’s CAO Application by February 1 2017 are what are called ‘restricted courses’. These are courses that will require tests or interviews during the coming March and April. Such courses are well identified, but students do need to be aware of and alert to them.

Course preferences

While there are many students who know exactly which course they wish to apply for — and happily study for — there are many, many, students who are still floundering as to what to put down on the CAO. The important thing here is for such students to know that is OK, it is normal, and not to lose heart. But, also to try to work out an initial plan — knowing full well that changes will and can be made later.

Specific courses

By now most students will have a strong feeling as to what they do not wish to study later in college, or be involved in, later in life, be that business, science, engineering, or arts among the main contenders. So, knowing what you don’t want can be a good place for many students to start. And for many students, these choices will be determined by the strength and preferences of their current Leaving Certificate subjects — hence why working of current Christmas results can help.

The challenge of points

There is probably no student who is not worried, in one way or another, as to the potential of his or her eventual CAO points. So, again, do try to analyse and learn from recent Christmas results and, if necessary, and if possible, maybe try to get some additional support in one or two subjects. It is still not too late.

Maybe also decide on supervised study, if studying at home is not working, and tighten weekend study and revision as well.

HEAR/DARE/SUSI applications

There are DARE and HEAR application advice clinics nationwide on Saturday January 21 (10am to 2pm ). The Galway location is the Aula Maxima, NUI Galway. DARE and HEAR applicants also need to apply on their CAO by 5.15pm on February 1.

SUSI (maintenance fee/grant ) applicants can also indicate so on their CAO application by February 1.

Finally, try to look on your CAO application 2017 as an incentive to use well the really long six months of study and revision ahead. There is time — and each week, and weekend, well used will be just that. Do try to believe that.

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.


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