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Make the most of the Christmas break to review career options

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

At this stage of the year Leaving Cert students tend to be exhausted. It has been very busy since September working hard to complete courses, to make progress with projects and to settle into the routine of study.

The Christmas holidays will bring a much needed break from school and the opportunity to rest and recharge the batteries. Spending time with family and friends will bring a welcome and well-earned break from the books. With six months to go until the exams start, now is the time to relax and re-energise.

Research the detail

It is also the ideal time to review your career plans for after school. When you go back to school in January it will be really busy preparing for the mocks so it would be great to have one less thing to worry about. Being off school means that you will have the headspace needed to research your options carefully and make important decisions. Now is the time to look at the range of options available in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) through CAO, in Colleges of Further Education, apprenticeships, traineeships and other training programmes. It is important to research the detail carefully – entry requirements, module content, work placements, opportunities to study abroad, career pathways and progression to further study on completion. Think about how you learn best and choose options that reflect that.

Applying to CAO

If you have not already registered for CAO, do so over the Christmas holidays on www.cao.ie. There is a ‘demo version’ of the form on the CAO website which you can use as a practice run. Once you have registered you have until February 1 at 5pm to complete the application and add in your course choices. You have the options to list 20 choices on CAO in total, 10 choices at Level 8 and 10 choices at Levels 7/6. You will have plenty of time to change course choices later on when the Change of Mind facility opens in May, but if you are applying for courses that are ‘restricted’ they must be added in by the February 1 deadline. If you register by January 20 you can avail of the discounted fee of €30 which increases to €45 up to February 1.

Options outside of CAO

Colleges of Further Education are accepting applications for courses starting in September 2022, many of which have progression routes on to Higher Education on completion. Check them out on www.fetchcourses.ie where you will also find information on traineeships. Applications for a wide range of apprenticeships are advertised on an ongoing basis, see www.apprenticehip.ie for details. If you have plans to apply for colleges outside of Ireland take note of upcoming application deadlines. Applications to Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales must be made through www.ucas.com by January 26 at 6pm and require you to complete a personal statement and get a reference so don’t leave it until the last minute. Check out the deadlines for European colleges on www.eunicas.com and www.medicalpoland.ie.

Taking time to explore all options, while you have the time to do it over Christmas, will help you to make an informed decision and ease the pressure and stress coming up to the application deadlines. Remember you will still have lots of time to review your options and change your mind later, but for now focus on exploring all the different options open to you. Read the detail, get familiar with the relevant application processes over the holidays and where possible complete them, so you can go back to school in January with a clearer focus, looking forward to what 2022 will bring! Wishing you an enjoyable and restful Christmas!

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant. For details see www.mycareerplan.ie.

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Try a universal contour wrap

It’s that time of the year again – New Year’s resolutions and plans to get the health and fitness levels in check. Which in turn always improves mood, energy levels and that fabulous just-worked-out glow to your skin, which is super anti-ageing. It even helps in collagen and elastin production. As we age and the […]

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It’s that time of the year again – New Year’s resolutions and plans to get the health and fitness levels in check.

Which in turn always improves mood, energy levels and that fabulous just-worked-out glow to your skin, which is super anti-ageing. It even helps in collagen and elastin production. As we age and the body slows down, so does cell growth. It’s a proven fact that movement increasing circulation and improves skin age and glow….

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Important date reminders about CAO applications

The normal closing date for CAO applications is on February 1 at 5pm, so it is really important that any students applying from Leaving Certificate, Further Education or as Mature Applicants are clear on the deadlines and application process. Before you start make sure to look at the CAO handbook which is available as in […]

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The normal closing date for CAO applications is on February 1 at 5pm, so it is really important that any students applying from Leaving Certificate, Further Education or as Mature Applicants are clear on the deadlines and application process.

Before you start make sure to look at the CAO handbook which is available as in interactive flipbook or to download from www.cao.ie, which also has a lot of resources to help applicants and parents.

To register, log on to www.cao.ie and click on Apply, it will ask you first to input your personal and contact details along with the category of applicant you are. Once you create a password and submit payment you receive you CAO number which means you are registered. It is advisable to go through the Demo Version of the CAO form first which is available on their website in the ‘Student Resources’ section.

Applicants who register before January 20 at 5pm will be charged the discounted application fee of €30, which increases to €45 up to February 1. Once you have registered you have until February 1st to add and change your courses, free of charge. On May 5, the Change of Mind facility will open and you will have the change to change your courses, with certain restrictions, up to July 1 at 5pm.

Course choices

You have the option of filling in 20 courses in total – 10 choices on level 8 (Honours Bachelor Degrees) and 10 on level 7/6 (Ordinary Bachelor Degrees / Higher Certificates) and it is advisable to fill as many as you can to give yourself the best chance of being offered a place on a course you like.

It is essential though that you research carefully all the courses you are going to include. Often students are careful about their first couple of choices but don’t research the courses that are further down the list well enough. Don’t make this mistake. Every course you put down should be one that you are genuinely interested in and willing to do so consider all options carefully. The majority of level 7/6 courses have progression routes onto level 8.

Order of Preference

This is the golden rule of the CAO and a very common mistake made by students every year. Always put down your courses in order of preference, not in the order of the points from the previous year. Points for courses change each year and you will not know the points for 2022 until the day that the Round 1 offers are issued by CAO, which is usually a couple of days after the Leaving Cert results come out. Also you don’t know what points you are going to get until those results come out and it will be too late to make changes to your CAO application at that stage.

Restrictions for the February 1 deadline

While you will get the opportunity to change your course choices later in the year, there are certain restrictions to take note of regarding the February 1st deadline. If you are applying for ‘restricted courses’ they must be added in by February 1as they require some other form of assessment apart from Leaving Cert points such as an aptitude test or a portfolio.

Such assessments are usually carried out between February & April. Students who are applying for Medicine must apply to do the HPAT by January 21 on https://hpat-ireland.acer.org/.

Any students applying for the HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) or DARE (Disability Access Route to Education) schemes must have applied to CAO by February 1.

You then have until March the 1st to complete those applications and up to March 15 to have supporting documentation sent to CAO (see www.accesscollege.ie). In the case of mature applicants, most HEIs (Higher Education Institutions) require applications to be in by the February 1 deadline.

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant – For details see www.mycareerplan.ie or email info@mycareerplan.ie

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