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Making a CAO Application

The CAO application form, believe it or not, will make your life so much easier. Prior to the establishment of the Central Applications Office in Galway, if you were applying to different colleges you would have had to apply to each college separately, filling out several different forms. However, the CAO form covers all the universities, all the institutes of technology and some courses in private colleges – in other words, several applications in one.

Many students feel very daunted at the thoughts of filling in their CAO form because they don’t have time for all this career stuff  and/or because they are not sure what they should apply for. If either situation applies to you, you can contact Andrée on 01-2788013 or email info@andreeharpur.com, to find out how she can help you at this very important stage of your life.

What can you Apply for in the CAO?

You can apply for Level 8 courses in universities, institutes of technology and some private college courses throughout the country and some Level 6 and 7 courses.

So How do I Apply?

The vast majority of applications are made online. The online application form is available from November at http://www.cao.ie  The CAO handbook gives a list of every course in every college in the CAO. This list is also available on this website at useful links. It is helpful to first browse through all of the courses on offer. Do your careers research, and make sure you know what courses you are eligible for.

 The CAO Form

The first section gives ten Level 8 options. Level 8 courses are honours degree courses which normally last four years.

The second section gives ten Level 6 and 7 choices. Level 7 courses are general three-year degree courses, Level 6 courses are diploma or two-year certificate courses. Many of these Level 6 and 7 courses can eventually lead to a Level 8 course. So do not ignore the Levels 6 and 7 section

The central piece of advice is to put the courses you would really love to get and that you have the subjects for at the top of the list. Then, coming near the end, include courses that you definitely know you will get.

Filling out the Form

The most important thing to remember with the CAO application form is that you get what you ask for! If you put a course as your number one choice and you get the points, the CAO will give you that course. If you fill in both Level 8 and Level 6 and 7 sections on your CAO application, you will be offered a course from both sections if you gain the requisite points.

What Are Points?

Specific points are given for each grade that you achieve in the Leaving Certificate. More points are given to grades on higher level papers than on ordinary level papers.

Here is a table of how many points are awarded for each grade:

Grade   Higher Level   Ordinary Level

A1            100                               60

A2            90                                 50

B1            85                                 45

B2            80                                40

B3            75                                35

C1            70                                30

C2            65                                25

C3            60                                20

D1            55                                15

D2            50                                10

D3            45                                 5

Most colleges will count the grades gained from your six best subjects. Each course will have a specific number of ‘entry points’. This means that you will need this number of points to gain entry to the course. However, these points change from year to year – they can go up as well as down. Entry points are just a measurement of how popular a course is or how many people want to do it.

The Safety Net System

it is important to put the course you love first on the list. However it is also important to be realistic about the points you might achieve. I would always advise our clients to ‘go for broke’ and to put down the courses you really want first. Having said this, it is also vitally important to create a series of safety nets.

If your first choices require high points, make sure that you also include courses that may require lower points further down your range of choices. Make sure you also choose courses that come within your range of realistic academic achievements. The Levels 6 and 7 section can provide just such a safety net – make sure to complete it.

Do High Points Mean the Course Is Good?

No! It just means lots of people want to do it. The reasons people want to do a course vary; it can really be a question of fashion: courses go in and out of fashion. People normally want to do courses which promise high wages or high status, but be careful – both of these can change. Courses that are trendy one year may notbe the next year.

Essential Course Subjects

Make sure that you have the subjects your chosen course requires. Some courses ask that students have specific subjects and even ask for specific grades in specific subjects. For example, if you wish to do Human Nutrition and Dietetics in DIT you will need a minimum of a Grade C in honours Chemistry. If you do not have the essential subjects, they will not get the course . no matter how many points they get. To get the course you want, make sure you have the subjects they need.

Who Can Help?

As well as the professionals mentioned below, Andree has many years experience in guiding second-level students as to what they would enjoy studying in college, to contact her please call 01-2788013 or email info@andreeharpur.com for her expert help.

  • A  Career Guidance Counsellor
  • Admission Officers

Each college has a specifically dedicated person who is in charge of new incoming students each year.

  • The CAO Office

The Central Applications Office is based in Galway. They provide an excellent website that really makes the application process so easy and minimises errors as much as possible: http://www.cao.ie

  • The CAO Staff

Should you have a genuine difficulty, you can contact the staff of the CAO office on 091- 509800.

Other Useful Sources of Information

  • Newspapers

Most of the large publications have a dedicated careers section and this can be extremely informative.

  • The Private Guidance Practitioner

The private guidance practitioner is a guidance counsellor who works outside the school system, privately. You can contact a private guidance counsellor for a full career assessment and individual counselling for your child. The private practitioner will charge a fee. A full list of registered and qualified consultants is available on the Institute of Guidance Counsellors website: http://www.igc.ie. 

  • Open Days

Open days are days where a college will set aside time to actively encourage students and parents to come to their college. A full list of open days and the dates they are on is found at www.qualifax.ie.


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