AS the Leaving Cert exams come to an end, the Class of 2021 are finishing off a journey through senior cycle like no other group of students before them, in the shadow of a global pandemic.
They have earned the respect and admiration of all, in how they have adapted with great resilience to remote learning over two years, the accredited grades process and finally the exams themselves!
While students are likely to be exhausted at this stage, it is essential that they take time to review their CAO applications and course choices in the coming week, ahead of the Change of Mind deadline on July 1 at 5.15pm.This is the last opportunity to make changes and it also the ideal time to consider options outside of CAO. The Leaving Cert results will be issued on September 3 and the CAO Round 1 offers on September 7.
The first step for students is to verify that the details submitted on the CAO application when they first applied are correct. All applicants will have received a Statement of Application email in May from CAO asking them to check that the following details are correct – personal, qualifications and assessments, supporting documents, exemptions and course choices.
It is essential that any errors or omissions are corrected at this stage by logging on to the ‘My Application’ section of the CAO website.
It is possible for students to change most details themselves online but in the case of a change to the name or date of birth it is necessary to email CAO by using the ‘Correspondence’ section.
It is decision time! At this stage great care and attention needs to be paid to what courses students are really interested in. Applicants have the option to include 20 course choices in total – 10 Choices at Level 8 which are Honours Degree Programmes and 10 choices at Level 7/6 which are Ordinary Level Degrees and Higher Diplomas. Most courses at levels 6 and 7 have progression routes on to level 8. Both lists operate independently of each other which means that filling up options on both gives students a great chance of getting two offers when the CAO Round 1 Offers come out. Students will be offered the top choice that they qualify for on each list and will then have to make a choice between the two.
Very often students rush to get the CAO application in by the February 1 deadline with the intention of revisiting it ahead of the Change of Mind deadline on July 1 .
Now is the time to do just that, focusing on what courses need to be taken out, added in and in particular making sure the courses are ordered in ORDER OF PREFERENCE.
Students often ask if they need to fill in all 20 choices. It is a personal choice but my advice is to fill up as many as possible, as filling in 20 choices gives 20 chances of getting a college place. The following points are worth considering when looking the Change of Mind facility.
It is possible to add in courses that have not been included already with the exception of ‘Restricted’ courses. It is really important to check out the ‘Alert Lists’ on www.cao.ie. Lots of have new courses have been added in several colleges since the CAO Handbook was published last September, some very recently. The details of these courses will be available on the college websites and just like any other course that ends up on the final CAO list, it is essential to look at that detail carefully. Examining the entry requirements, modules, opportunities for work placement, career possibilities and options for further study carefully enables students to make informed decisions in choosing courses they are genuinely interested in.
List courses in Order of Preference
The golden rule of CAO is that courses must be listed in order of preference not in the order of the points! This is a common mistake made each year by applicants, resulting in some very disappointed students on the day of the CAO Round 1 offers. No one knows what the points will be for 2021 until the day the Round 1 offers come out and students won’t know the results of exams and/or accredited grades until September 3. My advice is don’t try to second guess either of them. And before 5.15pm on July 1 ensure that course choices are list in ORDER OF PREFERENCE!
Students who have applied for the HEAR and/or DARE schemes will know the outcome of eligibility for those applications on June 29 and the result of the HPAT exam is expected around the same time. This may have a bearing on the choices students make by the July 1 deadline.
This is an important decision and making it may be stressful.
Researching the course details carefully, listing the courses in order of preference and making sure to include some courses that they are well capable of getting, gives students the best chance of getting a CAO offer they want in September and moving on to the next exciting step.
Higher Education is not for everyone so while the priority for the next week is the CAO July 1 st deadline, students also need to look at the many options outside of CAO including Post Leaving Cert courses in colleges of further education, apprenticeships, traineeships and study abroad options.
Whatever the route the key thing is to review, reflect on and research all options carefully!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor at Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra in Rathmore and a member of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors. She is also the founder of My Career Plan, a careers advisory service for teenagers and adults. See www.mycareerplan.ie/ for details or follow @mycareelplan1 on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.