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CAO Applications With Mary O'Donnell

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The deadline for CAO applications is February 1st, so students around the country will be filling in forms that will decide the course of their futures. As one simple slip up can lead to missing out on a chosen course, today we will be looking at the CAO application process and how to avoid any potential minefields. Last year 88% of students applied online, so we will be paying particular attention to the online application process. We will also be looking at the top 5 mistakes commonly made by students, and how to avoid them

Mary O Donnell, a career guidance counsellor and a contributor for over twenty years to the Irish Independent on the topic of colleges, courses and careers. 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.

Once you have submitted an application you will receive your CAO Application Number. You will need to quote your application number in all communications with CAO. In addition, you will need your application number to log on to your online CAO account. This is very useful if you make a mistake because you can log on to the website with your application number and simple fix it were as with paper you would have to start all over again!

PAGE ONE is simple. It asks for personal details, such as your name and address and disclosure of a disability and/or specific Learning Difficulty.

IMPORTANT: If you do have a disability such as dyslexia, this will not adversely affect your application or your legal rights in any way. In fact the purpose of this procedure is to allow HEI's to consider, in consultation with you, any specific support needs you may have in a higher education institution. Some HEIs may also take account of such disabilities or specific learning difficulties in considering the provision of special admission procedures.

PAGE TWO is the all-important page. On the CAO, students can apply for up to
. 10 Honours Bachelor Degree courses (Level 8 courses)
. up to 10 Ordinary Bachelor Degree and Higher Certificate (Level 6 and 7) courses.

PAGE THREE is to be completed ONLY by Special Category Applicants who have ticked yes at the bottom of page 3

. The vital thing is to LIST IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE. This means that your preferred course should be at the top of the list. This should be your dream choice. Don't allow last year's points influence this decision. This can apply whether they are standard school leavers, or non standard applicants
. These 2 lists operate independently of each other, so pay equal attention to both of them. Many students leave the cert/diploma list blank as they are only interested in degrees. NOTE If you do this you are cutting yourself off from many good degree opportunities. There is a well-trodden route from cert to ordinary degree to add-on degree and the number of add-on degrees available is increasing each year. If you fill out both lists, you could end up with offers from two colleges. The form gives you the opportunity to list 20 courses in all and you should try and use this facility to the full.


Paper applicants can make all sorts of little errors:
. wrong date of birth,
. wrong gender,
. forget the fee payment,
. forget to give a previous year's Leaving Certificate exam number if they are repeating the Leaving, NB This sort of error can have serious consequences.
. Applicants who have deferred a place may even forget to reapply, or may assume that they do not need to reapply.
. Non-standard applicants, that is, applicants who are applying on more, or other, than Leaving Certificate results, may fail to give adequate information about their qualifications. That could be important.

NOTE: If you are unsure there is also time to change your course if you wish and this can be done right up until July 1st