- 21 Jan 19
It is worth remembering that your teacher had to fill out the CAO form, for him- or herself – and in some cases, not so very long ago at all! So feel free to ask for advice. And remember: it is your choice – and your life. Now, go and live it!
So, it’s that time of year! CAO applications are open and the moment has arrived to start putting down the courses that interest you on that infernal form. This can be a daunting process – but try to stay calm. When filling out your CAO, here’s a few things that you should bear in mind…
1. Don’t Panic!
Don’t get me wrong, I know this is a scary thing to do for many, but the CAO does not decide your future, you do! Just because you pick a course now doesn’t mean that you must follow through and do it, or that you’ll be stuck in that career forever. You can always change your mind. Which brings me to…
2. In fact, it’s alright if you do change your mind
At this stage, most people filling out their CAOs are seventeen and eighteen years of age. That’s very young for people to expect you to know what you want to do for the rest of your working life. There’s the odd exception, of course, but most of you will have little or no experience in most jobs or career options, and the truth is that you won’t know if you like something until you try it. The good news is that, even between now and the exams, you can change your mind. Thankfully, that flexibility is built into the system.
3. If it all goes pear-shaped, you can always repeat
I know that this is not the ideal scenario, but if you don’t get the points you need for the course you choose, you can repeat the Leaving Cert and apply again. There are schools specifically for repeating too, as there will be plenty of people who end up in the same position. It is the nature of the game – and it is not the end of the world as we know it. Not by a long shot…
4. We’ve all been there
Ok, by this I mean that all teachers have been there. We have applied through the CAO, gone to college, finished our degrees, and know how it all works – so don’t be afraid to talk to a teacher. It doesn’t have to be the career guidance teacher per se, but anyone on the teaching staff who you find it easy to talk to: someone who will be happy to answer your questions. I know I always am when I talk to students about what college might have in store.
5. College is not for everyone
It’s important to recognise that college is not for everyone. Some people are better suited to what used to be called a trade, whether it’s building, plumbing, hairdressing, barbering, cooking or being a mechanic. In school, there is such an intense focus on college, and points, and the exams which deliver them, that people can feel pressured into going to college because it is seen as “the right thing to do.” But it is only the right thing if it is what you actually want to do. It is your life. Which brings us neatly back to…
6. It really is your choice
At the end of the day, whether you decide to go to college or not, the choice is yours to make. If you do choose to go to college, make sure that what you’re studying is something that you genuinely want to do in the long run! College is great fun, but bear in mind that it is no walk in the park. It is made that bit easier – and certainly more enjoyable – if you are studying something that you have a passion for. So try not to let people around you over-influence you in what you put on your CAO. They might have the best intentions – they usually do! – but they probably have an entirely different agenda, and one that has little or nothing to do with the way you foresee your future.
I hope that this helps to clarify things even a little bit for you. Either way, I want to wish the class of 2019 the very best of luck in their Leaving Cert exams this year – and, as a staging post along the way, with the pesky CAO applications. It is a big moment – but less hangs on it really than many of you currently feel. Whether you become a teacher, a doctor, a builder, a vet, a musician, a nurse, an ornithologist or an engineer, I hope that you excel in your career. In the meantime, make the most of your time in college – and indeed of your final few months in school.
You may not think it now, but soon enough, you will look back in nostalgia, and miss the good times you had in school – so cherish these moments.
Class of 2019, stay strong. The future is yours to shape…
• Gavin Cox is a second year Professional Masters of Education student in UCD. He is on full-time placement, teaching English and Geography…