DO NOT PANIC!! There is ALWAYS more than one way to get where you want to be.





This is a companion piece to ~

'Interview Season, Yikes!!!'


 'A Student's Curriculum Vitae'



Please see the new Section at the end ~

Thousands Opt for Further Education Programmes, Apprenticeships, Traineeships



Five Questions to Ask About Further Education

to help broaden your ideas on options and prospects.



Plus new Section ~



 Get Yourself Ready!



Winter 2019




Iseult Catherine O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students




Examinations and education organisations mentioned below are specific to Ireland. However, the general contents are relevant to any students, younger or older.









Remember, there is never, ever, only one way to get to where you want to end up. 


If you don't get the examination results you hoped for, and feel now that you won't be able to take subjects at the level you require, at or after Junior or Leaving Certificate, to enable you get a specific place, on a specific course, in college or university, or whatever is your dream ~ Do Not Panic!




If you were doing the Leaving Certificate in Ireland, or any major State exam, anywhere, you have had your results.  If you were disappointed with your results ~ I hope you let the shock hit, and then pass.  When you are ready, read the results again.



There's never an imperative to discuss your results until YOU are ready to do so. Don't let ANYONE push you into disclosing your results.  If people try to push you, just walk away.



If you applied for a place in a College or University via the CAO, I hope you were able to take another suitable course, if your primary choice was unavailable to you.



Perhaps, you did well in a subject or two which had not been in your reckoning for your planned higher results, do not discard these as irrelevant. However your results turned out ~ STAY CALM. Assess how you did in the subjects for which you felt you would need the best results to allow you take a specific Course, and follow your ambition.


If you feel lost, as if everything has fallen apart, and you begin to doubt yourself, have a look at my Article, 'A Student's Curriculum Vitae', on this website.  It is full of questions which will HELP you calm down, recover your nerve, and realise just how much you do have to offer.



PLEASE REMEMBER ALWAYS, just because you didn't do as well as you may have hoped for in an exam, you are NOT a FAILURE.  Failing things, like a driving test, like not getting a grade you wished for, is part of life for everyone, and one of the best ways of getting to learn where one's skills, aptitudes, and sticking power lie. 


We all fail. 


To quote the not widely successful for a long time, playwright, author, and Nobel Laureate, Samuel Beckett. 


"Ever tried. Ever failed.  No matter. 

Try Again.  Fail again.  Fail better."  


Beckett knew it is the getting up and trying again that counts.


Now, more than ever before, a Student has many options to investigate, via various college courses, possibly attaining FETAC Level 5 or 6 results in relevant or related subjects, which subsequently get that Student on the route to the qualifications wanted, even if it is via a circuitous route.


NEVER feel that spending a year getting a qualification to enable you to get onto your ultimate course is a waste of your time.

 Treat this year as an educational bonus!



YOU WILL LEARN how better to manage your study time, as your workload will increase compared to school requirements, as will the overall standard of work required.  Excuses for work not submitted on time, or missing references and a bibliography, are not tolerated in college.  You will learn how to pace yourself, including daily exercise and some time to relax.  You need to learn how to manage your health, both mental and physical, and to eat properly. 


These are the life skills you will need to manage and stick with your workload throughout your education and future careers.



YOU WILL LEARN to devise, from very early, a proper filing system for your source materials, both physical pieces, and backups on memory sticks, large external hard drives, or whatever system works best for you.  'Belt and braces' is always the best approach.  You will learn how to maximise the use of each piece of information that comes your way.


YOU WILL LEARN, at the start of the first term, your required referencing and bibliography systems, so that you are on top of your projects and papers, and when you do get on your ideal Course, you will be able to jump right in.  The various colleges and universities can use differing referencing and bibliography systems, make sure you know which is required for where, as soon as you get there.


The amount of stress you will have saved yourself already, with this degree of preparation, is extraordinary!








Be proactive regarding what you should do next, and decide who would be most useful to you for sensible advice.  Do not wait for your current or former Form Tutor or Year Teacher to get around to seeing you.


Approach your School’s Careers' Guidance Officer, requesting a double-period appointment, as soon as possible, even if you have done your final school exams.  CGOs are happy to help someone who is officially a former student of the School.  You are still part of the School.  You should go to the meeting with two copies of everything, one each.


Bring the details of your most recent results, previous exam results (if you still have them; if you don’t, try for copies from your School, if possible), plus all the literature you have gathered on the Course / Courses you hoped to take at third level, to qualify in your ideal subject.  Also, bring copies of your Letters of Reference and details of your Referees.  You may not be well known to your Careers' Guidance Officer, nor he or she to you, so bring everything you think might be useful to your discussions.


Advice on how to get the most satisfactory and useful Referees and Letters of Reference is to be found at the end of my Article, 'A Student's Curriculum Vitae'.


BE CERTAIN that your Careers' Guidance Officer is CLEAR what advice you require on what routes are available for you to take a third level / FETAC course, or any type of course which, when completed successfully, will gain you access to your dream.


Your Careers' Guidance Officer will require time to investigate the available courses and how they could be knitted to your ultimate Course.  Check in with him or her regularly, to see about updates.


If, for whatever reason, you did not get or take a place available at third level, do not despair.  If you have found yourself with a year on your hands, not knowing what to do, investigate internships in various colleges and universities, some may be available even if you didn't get or take a place. 


Also, investigate internships with companies which deal, more or less, in your subjects of interest.  Such an internship may, indeed, show you that you had not understood fully the work you would be doing having qualified ~ you might find it's not your cup of tea at all.  Learning that would be a bonus, letting you re-consider your plans.


Also consider that a year working for Concern Worldwide, or the Simon Community, the local Hospice, or whatever is your favourite charity closeby, would be a useful thing to do in any case, plus you would learn a great number of skills regarding dealing with people, decision-making, and you would receive training.


 The age for doing State Exams is fairly fixed during a school career, and one usually does the Leaving Certificate between 17-19 years.  Some of us are mature and good at making the right decision at 16 years, equally, some of us don't mature until our mid-twenties: our brains don't mature until our mid-twenties to our thirties. 


 I'm not suggesting we do nothing while waiting to mature, I am suggesting that nowadays, very few people make a decision about their future in the year they leave school, and are still doing that job thirty years later.



Everyone has an Opinion!

Photograph of painting by Dublin artist, Neil Douglas, neildouglas09@gmail. Courtesy of the Artist.





Listen to those who know you well and are clear thinkers.


Do not get distracted by extraneous opinions.


Students frequently get unsolicited, well-intentioned, advice and / or encouragement to concentrate on specific subjects, as the adviser may see a career path he or she thinks would suit a given Student's abilities.  Indeed, a Student can be inundated with advice on which subjects to choose, and at what level, for State and other examinations.


This is usually well meant, but unless an 'advisor' knows you well ~ strengths and weaknesses, knows your ambitions, and has seen your efforts to reach your goal, a polite 'thank you for your interest' is sufficient.  You will have enough ideas and options and prospects whirling around in your mind, to give room to unsolicited advice.


This advice can sometimes lead to confusion, and to a loss of clarity or confidence on the part of a Student.  He or she may have thought the agonizing was over, choices had been made after a great deal of consideration and, then, yet another perspective is offered.


DO LISTEN to advice offered by people who either know you very well, or understand your abilities well.  However, do not get stressed over a passing comment from a well-meaning someone, especially once you have already made your decisions.


IT SOMETIMES happens that adults will unknowingly transfer their unfulfilled dreams of an educational opportunity onto a young person.  They may then envisage the Student fulfilling his or her dreams vicariously. 


Be kind, but do not get caught up in someone else's lost dreams.




Thousands opt for Further Education, etc.





Practical, hands-on courses offer career progression and skills enhancement outside traditional CAO system.




The organisations mentioned below are particular to Ireland, but the approach to widening one's approach to further education opportunities is universal.







Please see below

Five Questions to Ask About Further Education

 to help you clarify your decision-making.


In many of our continental EU partner countries, practical hands-on courses are seen to be as of equal status as those offered by third-level colleges and universities.


Every year, tens of thousands of places on Level 8 and Level 6/7 degree and higher cert programmes are offered by the CAO to applicants who have until 5.15 pm the following day to accept.


What many people don't realise is that thousands of other young (and not-so-young) people do not seek a CAO place, but instead opt to secure places on further education (FE) programmes, apprenticeships, traineeships, or in employment.


With the national and local media focus firmly fixed on those who secured eight or nine A1s, those who opt for alternate progression routes may be perceived as having secured a less prestigious place.


Nothing could be further from the truth.  Many courses, provided through alternates to the CAO, offer successful applicants career progression opportunities perfectly in tune with their specific interests, aptitudes and abilities.


Looked at from the perspective of any aspiring student, for a programme of study to be successful it must be a good fit for their particular strengths and aptitudes.  For those who seek courses through the CAO, this will involve several years sitting in lecture theatres, attending tutorials, writing essays, studying for long hours in college libraries, and taking written exams at regular intervals.


For others, CAO-type courses offered in our universities and institutes of technologies are completely unsuitable learning environments. 


Such individuals may enhance their skills most effectively through a combination of observation and hands-on practise ~ often combined with on-going practical evaluations to assess the levels of competency being achieved.


Parental and peer pressures can drive young people down the academic route where they may flounder and eventually drop out at huge expense to their self-esteem, their parents’ bank balances, and the tax-paying public.


Attitudes are beginning to change, and the superb opportunities on offer through FE, apprenticeships, traineeships, and employment are gaining more recognition from society at large.




Thanks to rapidly changing perceptions both within Government and among employers, the range of apprenticeship opportunities has really diversified in recent years.   Solas is the national body responsible for co-ordinating the development of a wide range of new apprenticeship programmes in a wide range of areas within our economy.


Thirty-six apprenticeship programmes are currently available spanning the engineering, construction, motor, electrical, finance, hospitality, and ICT industry sectors.  In 2017, more than 4,700 applicants registered to start and 12,000 apprentices were completing their training.


The new apprenticeship programmes developed in the past year or so includes Insurance Practice offered online through IT Sligo, where students work four days per week within a firm, for which they are paid.  They receive a level 8 degree following the completion of their programme.


Another recently introduced programme is Accounting Technician.  Launched in September 2017, the apprenticeship is a new pathway to a career in business, accountancy and finance, where apprentices are mentored through a two-year, work-based learning programme.  Accounting Technician apprentices work four days a week with a registered employer and study one day a week with a local college, on a two-year contract.  Apprentices are paid a salary of at least €18,000 per annum and their college tuition is fully funded by Solas.  The programme leads to a Level 6 QQI Advanced Certificate in Accounting.



In 2018 there were approximately 160 apprenticeships available in industry, practise and the public sector.  Opportunities are available in FE colleges in the greater Dublin Area, Cork, Monaghan, Waterford, and Wicklow.



Further Education

There are up to 30,000 places available in further education colleges throughout the Country.  They are validated by QQI at both level 5 and 6.  Many students take PLC programmes with a view to applying to a CAO course which reserves a specific number of places for FE students.  Others are looking to develop a set of skills in a vocational sphere so that they can proceed directly to employment following graduation. 


Mature adults who may have been out of the labour market for many years, due to a variety of reasons including rearing a family, take PLC programmes to bring their skills up to date.


Each college has its own unique set of offerings tailored to the needs of their own community. For example, Stillorgan College of Further Education in Dublin, offers courses that address the needs of all of the individuals outlined above as well as meeting the current needs of industry.  One of its new courses is a Level 5 course in Illustration and Design.  This course introduces students to the wide-ranging discipline of illustration and helps them gain an improved understanding of the possibilities of image-making.


Another is a course in Regional Tour Guiding, developed in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland to enable learners to acquire the relevant knowledge, skills and competencies to work effectively as a tourist guide in the greater Dublin region and surrounding area.  It also provides learners with the necessary business skills needed to start their own tour guiding business.  



Animation prepares students with little or no experience for a third-level course in animation production.  With a dual focus on drawing and computer skills, the course covers all the fundamental areas required for a successful portfolio submission.  The Art course provides tuition in areas such as drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, and combined materials.


The College also offers Level 5 and Level 6 course in Multimedia and Web Development.  Also on offer is a Travel and Tourism with Airline Studies course which prepares students for work in all areas of the travel industry.  Courses in Media Production, Journalism and Level 5 and 6 courses in Computer Skills for Business round off the offering of courses in the college.  



Enquiries to To discover what your own local FE college is offering for the coming academic year, go to and search courses under the PLC tag identifying your county or a specific college and you will find a comprehensive list of all their offerings.




Traineeship is a programme of structured training which combines learning in an education and training setting and in the workplace aiming to improve recruitment and employment outcomes for participants and increase retention and productivity within industry. 


Traineeship gives participants the opportunity to develop up-to-date skills and knowledge on the job, making them more skilled, more employable and enhancing their career options. They allow employers to access talent and learners.  Traineeships lead to an award at NFQ Levels 4-6, or equivalent and are between 6-20 months in duration.  


They are open to all potential participants, of all ages and backgrounds, and are free-of-charge.  Trainees may include school leavers, older learners, those in employment and those who are unemployed.


Currently, there are more than 30 traineeship programmes available around the Country.  This number will increase with the development of more traineeships across a range of industries and sectors.


Existing traineeships include Engineering; Software Developer; Animation Studio Assistant; Health Care Assistant; Food and Beverage Service; Business Administration; Medical Administration; Legal Administration; Sports, Recreation and Exercise; Beauty Therapist, and Accounts Executive.  


More information can be found at




With unemployment now down to approximately 4.5 per cent, deemed almost full employment, the labour market is tightening and the opportunities for young people to access full employment opportunities across the economy has become more competitive.


In many sectors of the economy – banking, insurance, the food industry, hospitality – employers see the benefit of recruiting motivated school leavers whom they can integrate into their overall human resource strategy.  Many of these young people progress through education and training as part of their employment contract and progress in time to Masters and PhD level.


If you are interested in seeking employment directly after the Leaving Cert or following a one-year PLC programme, the quality of your CV, tailored for each individual employer, is crucial.


Young people and their parents may suffer through years of anxiety, seeing the CAO and the points race as a huge barrier to career progression in many areas of occupational aspirations.  



As a society, we need to broaden our horizons as to the wide range of options open to potential learners, which will meet the needs of all types of learning styles.  



There are dynamic challenging career progression opportunities available to suit every aspiring employee, when you consider all the opportunities outlined above.






Five Questions to Ask About Further Education

 There are hundreds of options to choose from and a little research will go a long way.



The Irish Times, Thu, Aug 23, 2018.

Peter McGuire


Not everyone is going to the college course of their choice. For some, they missed out on the points they need, while others always had a further education or apprenticeship course in mind.  But where do they go from here?



1.  Where can I find information on further education?

Until a few years back, there was no centralised place where students could find course details and it could be confusing to sift through the pile of options in the adult and further education institutions. That changed with the introduction of in 2016, which boasts well over 4,000 further education and training courses and was developed by further education and training agency Solas in conjunction with Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI).


The site is very user-friendly and gives information based on course type and location, as well as information about grants, allowances and other sources of support.


Students interested in apprenticeships, meanwhile, can check out, which contains a breakdown of entry requirements, any college fees and the salary that the apprentice can expect to make as they learn.


Fergal Scully, guidance counsellor at Rathmines College of Further Education, Dublin, says these websites are a good starting point for students but that, once they have seen them, they should go to directly to the websites of the colleges of further education (CFEs).



 2.   How do I know if a further education course is the right choice for me?

First up, look at the post-Leaving Certificate courses on offer in your local college of further education – you’ll find a full list at  These are usually full-time courses, one year long and leading to a QQI Level 5 certificate, or a second year leading to a QQI Level 6 award.  They include as diverse a range of options as you’d find in higher education, including animal care, arts and humanities, business, computers, construction, crafts and trades, healthcare, journalism and PR, science and more.


“Does any of the courses seem like something you’d be interested in doing for a year?” Scully asks.  “Go up to the CFE and see what is available with your results.  Talk to someone there – they are very open to answering your questions.”



3.   But I wanted to go to college, not further education.  Should I still consider these courses?

“There is usually a link between most further education courses and higher education in a college or university” says Scully.  “For instance, if someone had Arts on their CAO form but missed out, they could study Liberal Arts here in Rathmines, or a similar course in Liberties College, Dublin.


"They’ll do a similar range of subjects to those offered at a university.  Then, if they want to move on to higher education after a year, they need to meet the minimum entry requirements before they will be considered for entry.  This varies from institution to institution: UCD (University College Dublin), for instance, requires applicants coming from further education to have achieved five distinctions in nine of the subjects they have taken.” 


"Students who successfully complete a year or two of a further education course may be eligible for advanced entry into a college course; it is possible, for instance, to start studying journalism in Rathmines and then move to a level 8 degree in a linked college.


"But", Scully warns, "moving from further to higher education is not a guarantee and different third-levels will have different rules and pathways.  Bear in mind that, for instance, the majority of students on further education pre-nursing courses won’t be admitted into higher education.  If you’re thinking of taking this step, for whatever course, it’s really important to look up the progression routes."  


"You’ll find them on the student resources section of or you can ask the college of further education to which you’re applying.”



4.  If I’m not going to use the further education course as a college launchpad, what’s the point?

“Many students will go on to employment, not further study,” says Scully.  “Further education courses provide useful qualifications in their own right by equipping graduates with the workplace skills they need and many CFEs, including ours, offer workplace experience.  Students leave our courses with communications and computer skills and are more employable than someone with just a Leaving Cert.  They’re going into all sorts of different industries: businesses are looking for administration staff from some of our courses, while some of our computer graduates are moving into network administrator jobs.”


"It’s worth adding that students who move straight from a further education course to the workplace don’t have the college door closed to them: after a few years in the workplace, they may decide to return to further education, start a third-level course (perhaps as a mature student) or do a goal-oriented training course.  And the fees, usually below €500, are significantly less than the €3,000 you’ll pay at third-level."



5.   Is an apprenticeship for me?

"Apprenticeships have tended to be synonymous with carpentry, plumbing and motor mechanics, but these courses have changed radically in recent years and now include options such as accounting, insurance, and commis chef.  They’re built around a block of on-the-job learning and college courses, providing students with the best of both worlds.  Best of all, perhaps, is that these courses are paid, making them a highly attractive option to people who want a tangible degree qualification but can’t quite afford the full costs of college."


 I have edited, expanded, and rearranged the above newspaper articles. ICOB.



What Steps you Should take to Prepare for the Next Stage




Think carefully as you plan out your next steps.



Thurs Aug 15, 2019, The Irish Times.

 Éanna Ó Caollaí


While college will be fun – you will meet a lot of new people and will undoubtedly have the opportunity to pursue your interests whether through joining societies or getting involved in sports or other pursuits - don’t forget that you are there to further your education.



No matter whether you receive the offer for the course you applied for or didn’t do as well as expected (there are plenty of options still open to you), there are some steps you need to take as you prepare for the next stage of your education.


You should have read the CAO Handbook by now and taken note of the important deadlines and restrictions that may apply to you or your course.  The CAO advises that applicants must treat all correspondence from CAO as extremely important and notify them immediately (through if there are any errors or omissions recorded in your application documents.



1.   Meet the Deadline

If you receive the offer you had hoped for, you will review your options and when you are happy to accept your allocated course, then the process is straightforward.  As per the CAO’s instructions, you can do so online or by post (but not both).  


If you accept your offer online, you will receive an acknowledgement email, and you can check that your acceptance has been recorded online at via the ‘My Application’ facility.  If you accept by post and wish to receive confirmation of your acceptance from CAO, you must include a self-addressed and stamped postcard.  



2.   Consider your Options

Don’t worry if you didn’t get the course you expected – many don’t.  Choices you listed on your CAO form should approximate your interests and accepting a lower-preference course now will not prevent you from receiving an offer of a course higher up on your list in a subsequent round.  


Note that you can move up your list of preferences, not down.  If you don’t accept an offer, however, you run the risk of not receiving any other offers in later rounds. 



3.   Alternative Routes

If you don’t get any of the choices you listed on your CAO application form or have had a late change of mind, there are plenty of other routes that you can take.  


There are some 30,000 places available in further education colleges throughout the Country.  Many provide high-quality tuition and on-the-job experience, while apprenticeships offer a chance to earn and learn.  


Many of these courses also offer an alternative route to attaining a degree in college.  



4.   Taking a Year Out

If you are happy with the course but want to defer your place, you need to act immediately.  


You do not accept your offer – instead, you must email or write to the admissions office of the university or college.


Give your name as it appears on your CAO application, quote your CAO application number and the course code of the offer you wish to defer, and set out why you wish to do so.

Note: there is no guarantee they will allow the deferral.



5.   Prepare for College

The legwork will pay off and now is the time to prepare for the practicalities of college.  Things will seem like they are happening at a lightning pace so there’s no harm in being prepared.  Visit the campus to get a feel for it. Attend any open days offered. Most will provide tours and induction days for freshers, and these are well worth attending as there will be a lot to absorb.



6.   Accommodation

The hunt for student accommodation is well and truly under way.  If you need somewhere to live, your first port of call should be the college.  Places in student halls of residence fill up quickly – many are already full.  Your college and students’ union should also have a list of reasonably priced rooms and digs.  


Privately-run student residences are also an option, though these are expensive.  Be sure to check your lease as some private accommodation can exceed the student academic year so be prepared to have to rent throughout the holidays if you wish to keep the keys.



7.   Get to Know Where, What, and When

Familiarise yourself with the library, locate your course department and get an understanding early on of what is expected of you – how many essays / exams you need to deliver / sit.



8.   Still Not Sure?

No matter what you want to do at this juncture, there are plenty of options available for you to choose from.  


You might choose to take a year out, or perhaps change course entirely and apply to study something completely different.  

You should feel free to contact your school guidance counsellor for some advice.






It is worth taking time to think about your options as there is no one route into a career.



Thu, Aug 15, 2019, The Irish Times.

Brian Mooney


Many Leaving Cert students are still uncertain where their academic interests lie, and often proceed to third-level out of the fear of being left behind or losing contact with their peer group.


It may come as a surprise to many parents and students, but I often recommend that students who have secured an offer from the CAO of one of their course choices should consider the alternative option of a level 5 further education course, prior to moving on to a third-level degree programme. For students who don’t receive a satisfactory CAO offer, the argument is even more compelling.


Many Leaving Cert students are still uncertain where their academic interests lie, and often proceed to third-level out of the fear of being left behind or losing contact with their peer group. My strong advice to such students would be to consider a year’s reflection while taking a level 5 PLC programme, in an area of genuine interest, in their local further education college.


If the course engages their interest fully, they can then confidently proceed to apply for a course in that area at third-level, using either their current year CAO points or the level 5 award, which is one route many students can take to secure places in programmes where they do not currently have enough CAO points to secure entry.



Further Education

All further education (FE) colleges throughout the Country will still be taking enrolments and students can go on to any college website to apply online.


Classes start in early to mid-September, so there is plenty of time to find a course.  Some colleges hold open days over the coming week, so check out your local colleges’ websites.  Assessment and certification for FE courses is based on both work during the year and exams at the end.



Many FE courses are now specifically designed as preparation courses for entry into third-level programmes, in law, business, science, architecture, art and design, etc.  Following completion of their year in FE, students progress back into a CAO course through reserved places, bypassing the CAO points requirements.


An example of this progression is Blackrock Further Education Institute (BFEI) which offers a two-year level 6 Advanced Certificate in Business.  On successful completion, students can gain advanced entry to the second year of the level 7 Bachelor of Business in Enterprise at the nearby Institute of Art Design and Technology (IADT), Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.  There are similar advanced entry options for its Advanced Certificate in Interior Design.


As with many FE colleges, Blackrock FEI offers a range of one-year level 5 courses, including computer science and arts and social science where graduates can apply through CAO for degree courses in UCD, TU Dublin and IT Tallaght.  New and exciting for 2019/20, graduates from Blackrock FEI business studies and law courses can progress to the business, economics and social studies (BESS) and law degrees at Trinity College.  Progression options are continuing to open up for QQI Award-holders.


Bray College of Further Education offers a pre-science programme which is very popular with students seeking to bypass the high points requirements of UCD and Trinity’s science degree courses.


In Stillorgan College of Further Education, most graduates from its art, animation and media production courses progress to degree courses which may require a portfolio or have a high points requirement.  Stillorgan FE also has an excellent reputation for its photography course, as evidenced by the fact its students have won awards for three years running at the National Student Media Awards.


In the City of Dublin Education Training Board (CDETB) area, Rathmines College has a long tradition in business, marketing, accounting, media, office administration and computer programming.  It also runs a liberal arts access course where students can move to arts in UCD and Maynooth University.


Rathmines also has employment-orientated programmes in medical and legal administration, with almost guaranteed employment. The fees in Rathmines College are €460, or €210 with a medical card.



Private Colleges

The private education sector has a wide range of courses that are still available, either through vacant places on the CAO or by direct application to the college.  Fees are about €5,000-€6,000 and tax relief of €400 can be claimed.


Given the high points requirements for law degrees in State-funded colleges, disappointed students might consider Griffith College.  Its programme involves students in clinical practice through the College’s Innocent Project, which reviews cases where miscarriages of justice may have occurred.


Recent Griffith law students were responsible for having the murder conviction of Harry Gleeson, who was executed in the 1940s, overturned.


Griffith College also offers a film degree covering direction, production and editing of film and TV, and a four-year computer science degree with a six-month work placement, which has virtually a full employment record.


Dublin Business School (DBS) has a range of level 8 degrees which may be attractive to those disappointed by the rise in CAO points.  These programmes include a BSc in Computing, BA in Psychology, and a BA in Business, Accounting and Finance.



Study through English in Europe

Although the application deadlines have passed for many continental European degrees, they are still open for a wide range of courses for entry this September, particularly in the Netherlands.  


A wide selection of these programmes is on, together with application deadlines and fees.  Studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity, but I would hesitate if I was yet to celebrate my 18th birthday.  European universities are relatively easy to get into, but successfully completing first year can be a real challenge, so constant and intensive commitment to the programme is essential if you want to make it into second year.



Repeat Leaving Cert Courses

The numbers repeating the Leaving Cert have collapsed over recent years and a little over 1,000 students currently do so each year.  Consequently, the number of schools offering this option has decreased considerably as the market has contracted.



Taking a Year Out

Not everyone is ready to go directly to college after the Leaving Cert, particularly if they are under 18 years.


If so, do not take a college course just to be with your friends or to feel part of the group.  There are many creative ways to spend a year, including volunteering at home or abroad, while you figure out what you really want to study in college.  


Step back and reflect at leisure.  It’s far better than charging in and dropping out after a few months.







Disappointed? There are plenty of options for students who did not get preferred course.



Sat, Aug 17, 2019, The Irish Times.

Brian Mooney



If you have narrowly missed out, one option is to appeal your exam result.


Many CAO applicants and their parents are spending recent days reflecting on a very eventful and emotional number of days since the Leaving Cert results came out.  Any student disappointed with his or her CAO outcome should be aware there are still plenty of options left.


For students who did not receive an offer of their top-preference course, there may be a strong temptation to accept whatever level-eight (honours degree) programme down their list of course choices they receive. 


This could be a huge mistake which may well lead to you dropping out of college before the end of this academic year.



Students need to ask themselves three basic questions.


What is the aim or goal they were trying to achieve in making their course choices this year?


If there was a particular course they aspired to, and did not secure an offer, have they received a level-six / seven (advanced diploma / ordinary degree) offer from their second CAO list which will allow them to transfer to their preferred course in a year or so?


Alternatively, are there Further Education (FE) options on offer in your region which will give you the opportunity to apply for your preferred level eight programme though the CAO in the coming year?



Many universities and ITs now offer up to 10 per cent of their places to FE graduates.



Whatever you decide to do, do not be put off by any fears you may have of what anyone else might think concerning selecting an option today that does not lead you immediately into a level-eight programme.


Those who have your genuine interest at heart will want what is best for you long-term.




If you have narrowly missed out, one option is to appeal your exam result.  Your first step will be viewing your exam scripts.  


You may then decide to apply for a re-marking of one or more papers. About one in five papers, typically, get upgraded.



Some students may be wondering why points have increased for their chosen course.  CAO points are based on the supply and demand of places and the overall performance of that year’s cohort of students.  If students’ scores increase overall, points go up accordingly.


In recent times, more students are taking higher-level papers and are performing better in them than in previous years.


For example, the number of students achieving seven, six and five H1s – a remarkable achievement – is up significantly on last year.  These are substantial increases in high scores from students, which are reflected in the increased CAO points requirements for many high-points courses.




For most students who have secured an offer of a course which they are very happy to accept, the next short while will involve preparing to make the transition to life beyond second level.


Securing your degree in three to four years’ time will ultimately depend on good long-term planning now, after which the adventure can begin.



Best of Luck!

Regards, Iseult

Iseult Catherine O'Brien


  I have edited, expanded, and rearranged the above newspaper articles. ICOB.






If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you.





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