Thinking of changing your CAD course selection?

Many applicants use the initial CAD request in January as a waiting exercise and it will soon be time to submit a final list of options.

Now that the Leaving Cert written exam process has arrived, now is the time to review your course choices – and do them right. Here are some tips on how to manage the Central Applications Office (CAO) process.

Q. Why is now a good time to reevaluate my CAD options? When you made your initial CAD request, you were probably focused on preparing for your simulations or post-Leaving Cert (PLC) program. Your mind is now free of these pressures and you have just over a month to finalize your list of course choices.

Many applicants use the initial CAO application in January as a maintenance exercise, to secure a place at a college in September. It will soon be time for you to submit a final list of options. Ask yourself which course(s) will build on your interests and abilities and improve your ability to enter the job market upon completion of postgraduate work.

Q. How do I make these choices? You should be aware of the courses offered. The online CAO Handbook for 2022-23 was finalized in the summer of 2021. It contains a list of courses and detailed information on the different stages of the application process.

Since then, the colleges will have removed, modified or added certain courses. The CAO website, cao.ie, has an up-to-date list of these changes. To review the current list of courses offered by the CAO, including program details, see qualifax.ie.

A drop-down menu classifies each course according to the following headings: administration and commerce; agriculture and horticulture; architecture; Art and design; arts and social sciences; built environment; dentistry; education; engineering and technology; human medicine; straight; feeding with milk; other health care; pharmacy; physiotherapy; science; Applied Science; and veterinary medicine.

Explore your options within these classifications.

Whatever CAO points you get from the process of written exams taking place over the next month or so, or through your PLC award, courses are offered by higher and ordinary level colleges and specialist, depending on your situation.

Q. I know where to find course information; after that? Most students have gone through this process with their school guidance counselor for the past two years.

If you’re still not sure, follow these steps:

1. Take the interest assessment test on qualifax.ie and careersportal.ie and see if they highlight any areas of particular interest to you.

2. Review the results of other differential interest or aptitude inventory tests you have taken in the last two or three years. They can point to one or more of the 17 listed course groups.

3. Look at your results over the past few years, including your junior certificate results. Are you performing above your average in one or more subjects? These may be the ones to take in an undergraduate course.

4. Reflect on any work experience during the transition year or the Leaving Certificate Vocational Program (LCVP) to see if it has excited or discouraged your interest in a profession or career path.

5. Think about the subjects you have studied in the past two years. Which did you enjoy studying the most? The answers to all of these questions can help you narrow down your course choices to a relatively small number of options.

Q. Where can I find career-specific information? One of the most useful resources for exploring career options is the Careers Portal website (careersportal.ie). This site also has an “interest inventory” that will help you match your courses to the areas that interest you.

The results of the interest inventory may well open your mind to possibilities you hadn’t considered. Many of us have preconceived ideas, often inaccurate, about what certain professions entail. If you’re interested in listening to people talk about what a particular job really entails, the site has over 100 employees from top Irish employers talking about the day-to-day realities of their jobs. Having access to a site where employers promote opportunities in their companies or industry is beneficial for those interested in the job market, whether they are young people leaving school and considering a career change.

Remember that cao.ie has links to all colleges offering places, as well as the online application system to register the change of mind option.

Q. Do all applicants have to participate in the change of mind process? Yes, all applicants must review their application by the CAO’s deadline of 5 p.m. on July 1.

Q. What if I’m happy with the choices I made in January? If you are comfortable with your initial choice of courses and their order, simply check your list against the latest published list of courses offered by the CAO.

Make sure that all of your courses are still offered and that there are no new courses that you would like to consider. Make sure you always meet all subjects, levels and entry requirements. If you are unsure of these, go to the subject choice module on the Qualifax website, where the entry requirements for all courses are outlined.

If, for example, you have informed your school that you want to move from the higher level to the ordinary level in mathematics, you may have forgotten that an H4 grade at the higher level is a minimum requirement for certain electives. If some courses are no longer open to you, remove them from your CAD course list now.

After reviewing your choices, if you are satisfied with your application, you do not need to do anything further. You do not need to contact the CAO at all.

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