Using CAO Options as a Change of Mind Deadline

Thousands of Leaving Certificate students and their parents are insisting on what final choices should be made before the CAO’s last date for change of mind on July 1.

Below are some key points to consider before submitting the final course option. The advice is based on feedback from college students who have dropped out of their college course in the past year.

1. Don’t base course choices on anticipatory points.

Students should not base course choices on the basis of anticipated test results. They should make a choice based on what they like to do. It sounds remarkably simple, but if a student chooses a course based on a subject/subject/hobby that he likes and plays according to his strengths, ie History, Music, Social Media, Mathematics etc. , so it means that in college, they will really engage with the course material and find it very stimulating.

They will be eager to engage in curriculum-related extra-curricular activities and networking events, which play a big role in pursuing employment/further studies upon completion of college. It’s all the extra add-on extras that a graduate accumulates that will set them apart after their studies.

2. Base option on subjects not teacher.

Sometimes, in secondary school, a student is assigned a very attractive teacher for a particular subject. The teacher makes sure that the classes are interesting, stimulating and positive. Sometimes, the student chooses the CAO course based on this positive engagement with the teacher rather than their genuine interest in the subject area. They need to consider whether they will still have interest and love for the subject if they do not admire the subject teacher or have a good relationship with them.

3. Look beyond a course title.

College course titles can be misleading. Do not assume that it will do as it is written on the tin. Sometimes, colleges use course titles that draw students in, so it’s important to delve into the focus and content of the course to make sure you have a good understanding of what’s going on. An example of this is when some science courses were rebranded as forensic/crime scene investigation courses. Despite the course content being very similar, the number of applicants increased.

4. View all course details.

When a curriculum is narrowed, it is important to ensure that as much information and insight is gathered as possible – both positive and negative. Go through each module for each semester and each year. Check if there is a task placement element. Check if students can study abroad. Feel free to contact the colleges for queries.

5. 20 CAO options.

There are 10 level 8 CAO options and 10 level 6/7 options – as many as possible must be completed to cover each event. Whereas a student will have the preferred choices; No one can predict the future; Hence, a plan B, C, D strategy must be incorporated while finalizing the CAO application form. However, students should not list any course just to complete the application form. Not listed any courses they would not be interested in, and if offered, they are happy and willing to accept.

6. Level 6/7 Option.

Students often focus only on completing Level 8 Honors degree course choice options, yet by doing so they are not maximizing their options. It is important to realize that a level 7 general degree can lead to a level 8 honors degree with lower CAO entry points. Similarly, in the technical university sector – it may be possible to start with a higher certificate level 6 course – which again may have low entry points.

7. Do not allow others to influence the choice of course.

Friends, family, etc may have the best of intentions, but the student needs to take responsibility and research and choose the course they wish to study. Oftentimes, parents and friends influence students’ choices.

8. Choose a course that is beneficial

Students should not choose courses because of anticipated position and/or pay levels. Nothing makes a student more unhappy than being on a course they don’t like and in many cases, they drop out or retrain when they qualify, or move on to another career. Move on to what they are passionate about.

9. Students should check out all the college options

An Honors degree is a level 8 degree, whether obtained from a university, a technical university, or through an apprenticeship. Sometimes, students base their decisions on the perceived status of the college rather than the suitability of a course. Students should also consider the array of apprenticeships available that are equivalent to a Level 6, Level 7 or Level 8 degree.

10. Do not allow space to determine course choice.

Some students have a destination in mind and irrespective of the suitability of the course. It is better to opt for related courses in multiple colleges instead of different courses in one college.

11. Will the student be employable?

Upon completion of the course, the student needs to consider whether they will be employable, or require further studies? This is highly relevant when budgeting for college courses. Will four years turn into six years to facilitate the student securing paid status? Some college courses have a definite career path attached to it, ie. Elementary teaching, Nursing, Graphic Designer etc., while others offer more general qualifications and may need to develop expertise through further study.

12. What is budget?

Students should be realistic while making their choice and design their course space to suit themselves and their family’s budget. Accommodation, travel, food, etc. should all be considered in addition to college fees. If students are working part-time to support themselves, college location can be highly relevant to ensuring that they can remain in their work position. It is unreasonable for a student to wish to be away from home to put enormous pressure and stress on families. The number of children in the family should also be taken into account and how all of them will be supported from an educational point of view.

13. Include a local college in your choice.

No one can predict the future. For example, some students cannot travel far from home, or some family members become ill, and a student wants to be closer to home. After the first semester or first year, for example, if listed on the CAO form, it may be possible to negotiate a change of course (if a student has sufficient marks and places are available) at a local college. Please note, this is entirely based on individual college policies and procedures.

14. Can’t decide on curriculum?

Students should not feel pressured to go to college. They shouldn’t feel like they’re going to be awkward and just choose an inappropriate course to go to college. The long-term costs and personal effects are enormous. They should look at amazing options like FET (PLC), apprenticeship or working for a year till they are in a better position to make a decision. When the student is ready to move on to further studies – then they can do so.

Mary Lucy can be contacted at [email protected] 0879338941