Francis O' Toole Author – Careers Ireland

Students' embarking on their career journey – Is Féidir linn

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Going to College: There’s a very good reason why the golden rule of the CAO is to list courses in order of preference

Posted by Francis O' Toole on December 6, 2017

 

I will continue to repeat this statement all year – and again next year – because it is, perhaps, the most important rule of the CAO. It is as fundamental as our times’ tables in maths and basic spelling in English. If students remember nothing but this from their careers’ class, then at least they have learned something.

But every year, some students forget, or ignore, this most basic of rules. Every August, they call the National Parents’ Council helpline hoping they can change to a course they have listed in a lower position than the one they are offered. And every year the answer is no. No, it is not possible to change courses for one listed as a lower order of preference.

The CAO allows applicants to list their course choices in two lists, with 10 places for Level 8 (honours degree) courses and 10 places for Level 7/6 (ordinary degree/higher certificate) courses.

Applicants may list as many courses as they like, up to a maximum of 10 on each list, and they may return, up until July 1 next, to add and delete courses or change the order.

The CAO asks that all applicants complete their course lists in “genuine order of preference”. Therefore, it presumes that the course applicants have listed first on their list is the one they want more than any other.

 

Once the CAO receives an applicant’s exam results, they will review their lists of courses and offer the applicant the one which they have put highest on their CAO form, for which they have made all entry requirements and points.

If an applicant achieves the subject requirements and points to receive an offer for the course they have listed in first place, then this will be the only offer they receive.

 

 

 

 

Once the CAO receives an applicant’s exam results, they will review their lists of courses and offer the applicant the one which they have put highest on their CAO form, for which they have made all entry requirements and points.

If an applicant achieves the subject requirements and points to receive an offer for the course they have listed in first place, then this will be the only offer they receive.

Once an applicant receives an offer, all courses they have listed lower on their preference list will be removed. As already mentioned, this is because the applicant has indicated they would prefer that course to any they have listed below it. It is not possible to receive an offer for any courses which an applicant has listed lower on their preference list than the course they have been offered.

Sometimes, a course that an applicant has placed higher on their order of preference will become available during the second round of CAO offers. Places become available at round two if they have been turned down by other applicants in round one.

Should this happen, it will be offered to the next person on the list – i.e. the person with the highest points who meets all the entry requirements.

If an applicant is entitled to an offer during round two, they will receive it whether or not they have accepted the round one offer. If this happens, an applicant may choose to accept their round two offer or stay with their round one offer.

The problem occurs when applicants have not listed their courses in “genuine order of preference”.

Perhaps they have listed their courses on the basis of the points they expect to achieve, which is not a good idea. This can result in an applicant achieving the required points and grades for what they may then regard as the dream course but not receiving an offer for it because they have also made the entry requirements for a course they listed higher on their order of preference.

So don’t be disappointed in August and, remember, your guidance counsellor sounds like a broken record for a reason.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin

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