This Saturday January 20 marks the first of the CAO deadlines this year. Applicants are offered a discounted rate of €30 to register until then. After that, the application fee increases to €45 until February 1. It is advisable to register immediately if you have not done so already.
All the CAO actually needs at this stage are personal details, including name, address, phone numbers, disability/specific learning difficulty, email address, and any other qualifications you might have. While this is the time for giving your career choice consideration, some choose to make final decisions after May. Technically there is no problem waiting, however some end up making their choices during the final terms of secondary school when they are already under exam pressure. That is why it is so important to get these decisions right as early as possible. You can still add choices and change your mind between May and June, with the exception of restricted courses.
What are restricted courses?
Restricted entry courses are those that require a portfolio, completion of an audition, and sitting of an aptitude/suitability test often required for music, art, and architectural courses, and of course the H-Pat for medicine applicants. The vast majority of mature students (over the age of 23 ) must also apply early as interviews accompany most applications. The official deadline is February 1.
HEAR and DARE applications
March 1 (5.15pm ) is the final deadline for CAO applicants to complete the online forms under the HEAR (Higher Education Access Route ) and/or DARE (Disability Access Route to Education ) schemes in advance of the CAO application deadline. NUI Galway will run an application advice clinic for students and parents who are interested in applying for access to college through the HEAR and DARE schemes. The clinic will be held this Saturday, January 20, from 10am to 2pm in the Bailey Allen Hall in NUI Galway. Parents who have students hoping to access these routes are advised to attend. Guidance counsellors find it much easier to liaise with parents when they themselves are familiar with the guidelines. Unfortunately resources in schools are often time limited and there are changes annually with regard to application guidelines.
Level 6 and Level 7 degree courses
Level 7 degrees are known as ordinary degrees and offered in institutes of technology throughout the country. They are generally three years in duration. The vast majority of Level 7 courses lead on to Level 8 degree courses in the same college if a certain standard has been attained throughout.
Level 6 courses on the CAO are generally available in IoTs and private colleges and are of two years’ duration. Level 6 and 7 courses are valuable qualifications in their own right that can lead directly to employment or used as platforms to go forward. Level 8 and level 6/7 categories are separate and do not affect each other, giving the majority the advantage of having options. Finally, and most important, all CAO courses should be listed in order of preference only. Parents and students tend to be easily impressed with courses which require high points, but this can be misleading. Many of these courses allow small numbers, naturally pushing up points, and with thorough research you can often find different courses that will give you the same qualification on a lower point scale.
Make an appointment with your guidance counsellor
This is a very busy time of year in schools. It is likely a large number of sixth year students will wish to meet the guidance counsellor before February 1. Do not panic — as already stated, the real deadline is after May 1. Make the best attempt you can at your CAO preferences now. The counsellor can help in a number of ways: suggesting extra courses based on what you have already found; discussing the pros and cons of your courses; challenging your ideas; and helping clarify your order of preference list.