Francis O' Toole Author – Careers Ireland

Students' embarking on their career journey – Is Féidir linn

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Going to College: Feeling confused already? Check out the resources to help students and parents

Posted by Francis O' Toole on November 28, 2018

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh1
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

In this busy year for sixth year students and, from time to time, sit can be helpful to take stock of where we are. The first deadline for UCAS has passed, the CAO has opened for applications, we are seeing the first of the PLC colleges opening for applicants and most open days, especially ones in the larger colleges, have taken place.

If applicants are beginning to feel confused about their choices, that is ok! Often confusion comes before a decision and it just means we are really thinking about our options. For parents, especially those going through Leaving Cert for the first time, it can be even more confusing. There are ample excellent resources available for any person who wishes to educate themselves on this process, including some aimed specifically at parents who want to support their child.


All parents should take time to read the CAO handbook. Your child will have been provided with one in school and there is a PDF version on the CAO website. In addition, the CAO has published a parents’ guide, which is available through the student resource section of the website. Here, you will also find a demo application, where students and parents can familiarise themselves with the application form. There are also video guides available to explain the offers and acceptance process as well why it is important to list courses by order of preference. – Parents

This website has everything needed for college and careers choices and there is a dedicated section for parents. It contains everything from how to talk to their son or daughter, how to choose a career and apply to college and even how to cope after making the wrong choice. Everything you might ever need is here in one place and it is a great place to start for any novice or even experienced senior cycle parent. – Course Search

A relatively new addition to my bag of tricks, this is my go-to course search tool. I like it for a number of reasons: it links with the REACH programme, which many guidance counsellors use in careers’ class; it’s easy to flick between the CAO and the further education sector; it is clearly laid out and offers detailed course descriptions. What I like most are the filters – students can exclude courses from certain areas of the country or courses that require certain subjects, or seek courses that match their ‘career interest’ results (the career interest test is available on the site). Applicants can save their courses in an easy-to-use personal file, which can be revisited.

Applying for medicine

The ‘applying for medicine’ PDF available on the CAO website offers a summary of how the CAO points and HPAT systems work, as well as giving the entry requirements for every medical degree in the country and more. There is also a version for graduate medicine. Both are essential and easy reading for anyone considering entering this field of study, and for any parent trying to support a prospective applicant.

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