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Top Tips for the CAO

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

The deadline to fill out CAO forms is February 1st so parents and students need to start researching their college course choices together in order to ensure they make the right decisions for their future.

It's a very important decision to make and it's vital that every applicant researches their course choices thoroughly. Often students just place courses on their CAO form to fill it up, which is a major mistake. Mary O Donnell is here today to give students, parents and mature applicants the information they need in order to research their choices correctly.

Education Expert - Mary O Donnell
Mary is a career guidance counsellor and education contributor to the Irish Independent for over twenty years.  Her "Going to College" column appears weekly in the Irish Independent throughout the year, and daily in January and August.
She is also, author of "Getting into College", a best selling text on college entry procedures including the Points system.

What should Guide my CAO Choices?

How students and mature applicants actually make their choices of third-level educational courses can be a complex process, starting much further back than the actual process of applying to college. The steps of discovery along the way, both planned and accidental, can and should be many. They involve, among other things,
. school career guidance programmes,
. transition year work experience programmes,
. college open days,
. instinctive skills or talents that have become evident as they have grown and matured,
. the results of your Junior Certificate and school examinations,
. the inspiration of a good teacher in a particular area, 
. the example and models of parents and older siblings and other key figures in their lives.

Researching your choices correctly
Applicants should look further than the lists in the newspaper or in the CAO handbook when they see a course title that interests them. Applicants should consult the colleges' literature for more information about the content of the courses. Remember that most colleges have excellent websites, all easily accessed through CAO's website,
Frequently when applicants actually take the trouble to look beyond the title of the course, or to check on the differing contents of two similarly titled courses in different colleges, they begin to realize that they would actually enjoy one course more than another.
An excellent website which is easy to navigate for both parents and students is,
This database is the national database of all third-level and further education courses.
Every educational option in the national database is available on this website including 16,000 courses which you can take throughout Ireland. Simply log on to the CAO Courses section of the Qualifax website, enter a search word and you will immediately find a wide range of choices available to you. When you arrive at a web page regarding a course of interest, you should then.