- 27 Jan 20
It’s that time of year again. The Christmas break is a distant memory, and the CAO deadline is hurtling towards us – giving students plenty to think about. Here’s the Hot Press guide to finding the right course for you.
With the CAO deadline fast approaching, there’s no better time to stop, think and start planning for a future you can look forward to. Of course, that can be easier said than done!
While there’s no single fixed road to finding a successful and fulfilling career, exploring your options through the CAO can be a great place to start. With over 1,000 courses listed in the system, there’s something for everyone – whether you feel like you excelled in secondary school or not. Although filling out the CAO form may feel like a terrifying notion when you’re still, legally, a child, it’s important to keep things in perspective. The CAO is by no means a life sentence, and can instead serve as a valuable stepping stone – presenting paths that you never could have expected. By prioritising your passions and interests over what you think you ‘should’ be doing, the CAO can even be something to look forward to, rather than something to dread.
So, whether you’re approaching the deadline with cool confidence or petrified panic, we’ve got you covered, with some words from the wise on all things CAO-related.
Prioritise your passions
Putting the most impressive-sounding courses at the top of your CAO form is all well and good – until you find yourself facing down the barrel of a four-year course you have no real interest in. While it’s important to challenge yourself and broaden your horizons during your time at college, it’s even more crucial to prioritise the subjects you’re passionate about. After all, college is hard work – and you’re much more likely to find the drive to succeed if you actually want to be there.
While people assume that certain high-points courses are a guaranteed ticket to a top job, this isn’t always the case – particularly if you’re going to hate every moment of it, and drop out after a year or two. Instead, ask yourself what you honestly enjoy, and what subjects, hobbies or extracurricular activities you’d love to explore further. With such a vast array of courses on offer, there’s no reason to settle for something you’re not passionate about.
Research your options
Between barely sufficient sleep, homework, revising, part-time jobs, a semi-functioning social life and basic human survival, balancing life as a Leaving Cert student is stressful enough as it is. But, whenever you catch a rare free moment during the evenings or weekends, it’s a great idea to spend some time looking past the CAO codes, and researching what your dream course really entails.
There are plenty of ways to find out more about the courses you’re interested in. Most colleges offer in-depth information on their websites – often breaking down the course by semester, and giving testimonials from graduates. But don’t stop there. Make the effort to travel to various colleges for open days, where you’ll get a real taste of the courses on offer, as well as the atmosphere on campus. There will usually be students, lecturers or graduates on hand to answer all your queries, so come prepared.
During your research, it’s also important to think logistically, and factor in practical things like cost, accommodation and distance. Be sure to read up on any scholarships or grants that may be available to you, and visit SUSI’s website to find out if you’re eligible for the student grant.
A little organisation goes a long way during the busy Leaving Cert year, so be sure to keep a note of all the relevant deadlines and open days. Putting in proper research is a crucial part of making an informed decision.
Stick to your guns
It’s all too easy to be influenced by the chorus of commentators around you when making your CAO choices. While friends and family undoubtedly mean well, it’s important to recognise that your future is in no one’s hands but your own. Of course it’s tempting to stick down the same courses as all your friends – but why start this exciting new chapter in your life as just another sheep in the crowd? College is a great opportunity to become your own person, step outside of your comfort zone and expand your worldview.
Many students also feel pressure to put down the courses their parents have chosen for them. While it’s obviously easier said than done, it’s crucial to stick to your guns when it comes to the CAO. After all, it will be you that’s putting hours of study into that course every week – not your parents. Embrace the newfound independence of adulthood by bravely deciding to carve your own path, and choose a course that suits you.
Think outside the box
While much of the conversation surrounding the CAO deadline is focused on universities, don’t forget that you have many more options, from PLCs to apprenticeship schemes. Academia isn’t for everyone – but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bright future ahead of you. Wherever your passion lies, a little research will help you find alternative routes to the career of your dreams.
There are also several alternative paths into university courses that your school guidance counsellor might not have told you about. Trinity College’s Feasibility Study, for example, signals a positive change in admissions policies in Ireland. The scheme offers places in a select number of courses by taking into account a combination of your Leaving Cert results, your performance relative to others in your school and a personal essay.
If you’re in a position to travel, there’s no shortage of exciting options outside of Ireland, too. European universities are fast becoming a popular option for Irish students – attracted by their impressive worldwide rankings, lower fees and alternative entrance requirements. With all that research and planning done, all that’s left to do is step confidently into this bright new chapter in your life – once the Leaving Cert is out of the way, of course!
PUT THESE COLLEGES ON YOUR RADAR
The following colleges are our partners in this special education feature.
Tel: (01) 668 4806
Out in the leafy south Dublin suburb from which it takes its name, Ballsbridge College is a well-established centre of learning with many years of experience delivering full-time Post Leaving Certificate courses. The college offers programmes in such areas as psychology; criminology; accounting; marketing and advertising; social studies; auctioneering and event management. There are also courses on web design and multimedia; human resources; IT skills; media; law; financial services; foundation teaching; and international aid and development. It also offers programmes in health, nutrition and fitness; community development; administration for business; digital marketing; EFL and TEFL training. All courses are QQI certified and include a work placement component. Students can also avail of internship opportunities abroad. In addition, the college offers a two-year ‘earn and learn’ QQI Level 6 Auctioneering and Property Services Apprenticeship programme which combines on-the-job training with academic study.
Tel: (01) 626 9421
Long-hailed as a leader in the delivery of media and music courses in Ireland, Ballyfermot College has been running music courses since the Rock School was set up in 1990. The Rock School is a two-year HND course, aimed at students who aspire to become professional musicians, and who want to learn about the music industry. Famous alumni of the music programme include Damien Dempsey and Mundy, while their animation department produced Nora Twomey – creative director and animation director with the Oscar-nominated Cartoon Saloon. Indeed, Nora was the seventh graduate of BCFE to be nominated for an Oscar. The college has given a start to media personalities like Rick O’Shea and Mairead Farrell. Courses are available under the departments of Art, Design and Graphics; Business; Animation; Digital; Media; Moving Images; Music Performance, Sound & Management; Tourism & Travel; and Social Care. The college also offers a programme of night-courses – those beginning in January 2020 include Scriptwriting for TV & Film, Millinery & Feltmaking, and Printmaking. BCFE are holding an open day on January 29 between 2 & 7pm.
Tel: (01) 513 3666
It was an amazing 2019 for the Brighton and Irish Modern Music college in The Liberties as alumni Fontaines D.C. conquered all in front of them. With The Murder Capital, Somebody’s Child, Erica Coady, Pixie Cut Rhythm Orchestra, Ailbhe Reddy, Elkae, Orchid Collective, Maria Kelly, Thumper and Erica Cody – and that really is just for starters – also associated with BIMM, the third level college is on a serious (rock and) roll at the moment. BIMM students enjoy access to state-of-the-art facilities, as well as masterclasses from such heavy-hitters as Kodaline, Tony Visconti, Everything Everything, The Edge, Thurston Moore and Imelda May, plus tutorials from industry professionals in relation to songwriting, performance, music production and publishing. BIMM offers courses in every aspect of the music industry, from songwriting and performance, to music production and live sound, music business and event management.
Tel: (01) 802 6577
Dunboyne College of Further Education in Co Meath serves east Leinster, especially Meath, Dublin and Kildare, with over 670 students doing QQI Level 5 and 6 courses. Over 90% of Dunboyne College students who achieved full QQI Level 5 awards have received third-level offers. Many proceed directly to employment, because the skills acquired are much sought-after in the healthcare, childcare, cookery, tourism, business, airline and animal care industries. Students often fare better at this level, as they study an area that suits their passions and aptitudes.The feedback from students of the Dunboyne College courses has been hugely positive in terms of their new skills, and an increased confidence to go on to future learning and to access job opportunities. Some of the new courses added for 2020 include Pre-University Journalism, Digital Media and Public Relations; Criminology & Psychology; Physiotherapy Studies and Pre-Paramedic Fire and Ambulance. School leavers, mature students, lifelong learners and others use Dunboyne College to explore their passions. And why not?
Tel: (01) 241 1500
The MIX (Music Industry Xplained) course, brought to you by Hot Press is aimed at those who want to succeed in music, management, media, publicity, promotion, publishing, record labels, and lots more, within the music, entertainment, events and media space. Recognised by the music industry in Ireland and abroad, MIX is a 13-week series of lectures (one each week) by top professional exponents from the Irish and international music industry. Key subjects include: Record Companies and How They Work; Music Marketing; Publicity; Image Development; the Independent Route; Record Production; Social Media; Music Publishing and Music Online. Also covered are Radio, Working with the Media, Management, Finance, Touring and Distribution, and Music Publishing. Offering great networking opportunities, and hands-on opportunities, it is an ideal course
Tel: (01) 497 5334
Located in the old Town Hall Building in the heart of Rathmines, minutes from Dublin city-centre, the Rathmines College of Further Education offers a broad range of courses that can be divided into the following groups: repeat Leaving Cert; Accountancy; Administration; Business and Marketing; Computer Programming and Software Development; English and IT; Finance; Journalism and Media; Legal and Liberal Arts. The courses are 1 or 2 year full-time programmes, fully certified at QQI Levels 5 or 6 or by relevant professional bodies. The college also offers a wide range of part-time evening courses. The college has allocated a lot of resources to support its learners, with tutors for each group of students and a guidance service. They also offer a programme of pre-apprenticeships starting in late February. These are one-year, full-time courses including three months work experience that lead to QQI Level 5 certificates in Business & Accounting or Software Development and excellent progression routes to accredited business & IT courses and employment.
PLC and Further Education Courses
It’s important to remember that Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) are not the only option when it comes to continuing education in Ireland or abroad. Designed as a step towards skilled employment, PLC (Post Leaving Cert) and Further Education courses offer pathways into a number of fields, by developing a range of vocational and technical skills through taught classes and work experience. There’s a number of reasons why these may be more appealing to many candidates than traditional university routes. As students apply to the college offering the course directly, the requirements for PLC courses are not as strict as university courses, normally requiring five passes in the Leaving Cert. The charge for PLC courses is also far lower than that of higher education, with a student contribution of approximately €200 per year, and an individually set course charge to cover expenses such as books, training and materials. Usually running for one or two years, there is a less significant time commitment required with these courses – which may help if you’re still deciding whether the route is one you wish to pursue long-term. With courses in everything from business, electronics, engineering, catering, theatre and stage, to journalism, childcare and beauty, these courses offer students a Level 5 or 6 accreditation, and routes into either employment or further study.
Most major universities in Ireland offer ACCESS programmes as alternative routes into third level education. They aim to give students the skills and knowledge necessary to undertake a full-time third level course and make the transition process easier. These programmes incorporate a number of core components, including study skills, writing and communication skills, IT skills and maths – all of which are designed to prepare students for the demands that third level study entails. As part of the programme, students are usually encouraged to explore modules from a range of disciplines to get a taste for what they wish to pursue when they progress to third-level. Most of the major universities – including TUD (Technical University Dublin), UCD, Maynooth and NUI Galway – offer ACCESS programmes, but it’s important to bear in mind that some ACCESS Programmes are restricted to students from a particular area or college. For example, the Trinity Access Programme (TAP) works directly with Liberties College, Pearse College and Plunket College.
Trinity Feasibility Study
The Trinity Feasibility Study was introduced in 2014, with the aim of offering places to a limited number of students, under the age of 23, who have a genuine passion for a particular course – but didn’t get the required number of points to be offered a place. A very positive initiative, the Feasibility Study reserves ten places in History, ten places in Law and five places in Ancient and Medieval History. It uses a range of materials, including a personal essay and the student’s performance relative to their school, to assess the academic ability and the potential of each applicant. So, if you’re interested in any of these courses, but fear you might not get the grades required, it’s a great option to keep in mind.
If you’re eager to get stuck into the career of your dreams and get on-the-job training, apprenticeships can be a great option. There are currently apprenticeships available across a wide range of industries and sectors, including auctioneering finance, ICT, hospitality, construction, engineering, biopharmachem, hairdressing and sales. To be eligible for an apprenticeship, you must be at least 16, and have a minimum of grade D in any five subjects in the Junior Certificate – though individual employers may ask for additional requirements. For more information see apprenticeship.ie.
20th January: Apply online by this date to avail of discounted application fee of €30
1st February: Normal Closing Date for CAO applications (Courses with portfolio/interview requirement must be listed by this date)
3rd - 21st February: Registration for Mature Nurse Test (PAS) 5th February CAO facility to amend choices online opens (€10 Fee)
22nd February: HPAT Test (for undergrad entry into Medicine)
1st March: CAO facility to amend choices online closes. Closing date for HEAR/DARE applications. Closing date for mature section of the application.
5th March: CAO late applications open
7th & 12th March: MSAP Test (for Mature applicants to certain courses in UCD, UCC, UL, NUI Galway)
15th March: Last date for HEAR/DARE supporting documents
21st March: GAMSAT Test (Graduate entry into Medicine) TBC PAS Test (Mature Nursing)
1st May: CAO Late applications close
5th May: CAO Change of Mind opens (Free)
1st July: CAO Change of Mind closes
22nd July: Exceptional closing date for late applications (for those already in a participating HEI)
Pick up your copy of the Hot Press Hot For 2020 issue now!