You may have thought that this time in yours or your teenagers life would never have come, but here you are with less than a month to making what some believe to be the most important decision in your life – choosing a further education course after your secondary education or Leaving Certificate. It is a time where one needs to look out into the future and picture what they would like to do for the rest of their lives i.e. choosing an ideal and realistic career. However way you decide, the process of choosing, processing and applying takes place through the Central Applications Office, better known to all of us as the CAO.

The Central Applications Office (CAO – a not-for-profit organisation) has been given the task by the Higher Education Institutions in the Republic of Ireland to process and manage applications for first year undergraduate courses and programmes.  Once completed, the participating educational institutions make the decisions on who to accept or not.

CAO Handbooks should already be in the schools and first round applications are due by 5.15pm 1st February 2013 at an on-line or on paper fee of € 40.00.  CAO offer a discounted fee of € 25.00 if they receive your application online by 5.15pm 20th January 2013.  Change of mind closing dates for course choices occur 1st March and 1st July (Check for exact details).

For many students and their parents / guardians, this is a very stressful time.  What courses do I choose, where and in what order?  These are critical decisions in a young person’s life who wishes to pursue third level education; they will possibly only get one chance.  20 courses need to be chosen (10 for Level 8 and 10 for Level 7 & Level 6).

The following considerations may help in completing the CAO process with more confidence and belief:

  1. Confirm that you want to continue studying for another 3-5 years
  2. Assess what is your realistic ‘Points’ target figure
  3. Are you a people’s person, a hands-on person or a mind person; one is always dominant, which one are you?
  4. Visualize what type of working environment you would love to be going into in say four years time on a Monday morning at 8.00am
  5. Review, analyse past achievements / successes where your natural strengths, talents, competencies exuded and came to the fore
  6. What are your interests, what are you passionate about? (may not be something you want to make a living from, but do give it some thought!)
  7. Choose courses that interests you at Levels 6, 7 and 8
  8. Choose course academic institutions that interest you considering institution reputation i.e.will they impress a reader of your CV in the future, where are they located, choice and cost of accommodation)
  9. If you are still unsure, choose a course that is generic i.e. that will give you more than one employment option or that will open up more than one door of opportunity for you in employment and indeed further education
  10. Ask the question, ‘How do I want to make a difference to the world of the future’?
  11. Remember if have two more opportunities to change your mind and choices