Home > Education, Events, Ireland, Rants > The countdown to the CAO deadline…

The countdown to the CAO deadline…

I just finished filling out my CAO form the other day and I’d forgotten how complicated it was.  The CAO or the Central Applications Office handles and distributes college places in Ireland. Places are award using a points system based on the Leaving Cert examination result. It wasn’t my first time filling out the form because I’d been in college the year before but the course didn’t suit me. Even after having going through it before it took me nearly an hour to fill it out. On my first attempt the website timed out on me, then on my second attempt it was like some challenge from the ‘Krypton Factor’. Then when you consult the CAO hand book for help it makes as much sense as a Klingon version of Ulysses.

As I was a college student last year, this caused some complications for me whilst filling out the form. I had to inform them that I had previous attended an institute of higher education, which I did and that I had to provide them with a letter from the college which I was going to go about doing the next day. Then to my surprise I received the normal confirmation email and another email saying I had to provide the letter with in seven days of the email. It gave no reason for the seven-day deadline, I can understand it would be necessary to have it in by the closing date which was twenty days away, but seven days? Maybe if the letter doesn’t arrive my application spontaneously combusts or something.

I decided to read up more to see what would happen if I didn’t have it in on time. It didn’t really give any explication at all, just stating that “Failure to comply with these instructions may result in an extra fee and the consequent delay may seriously hinder the processing of your application.“. Okay fair enough but what’s all this about extra fees? The CAO is obsessed with extra fees. If you apply online by the 20th January it cost €35 but if you apply from the 21st January until the official closing date on 1st February for some mad reason it costs €10 more.

Although when you log on to the front page of the CAO (http://www.cao.ie) it says that “CAO is a not-for-profit company registered in Ireland.” So where does the extra €10 fee go? On administration? Biscuits maybe?

It’s not just the late application fee, if you make any mistakes on the form or fail to supply the supporting documents (like I have to) you have reapply and pay the fee again. That’s another €35 (that’s 566 in Jaffa cakes) going to the non profit company.

Then it gets down to nitty-gritty, picking the ten courses you want to be doing for the next three or four years. Do you go for what your interested or do you follow economic trends? For instance last year the points dropped for courses such as architecture and engineering which reflected the reduction in construction brought about by the economic down turn and points for science courses rose as that industry still remains strong. Points are likely to follow the same trend this year.

Is it wise purely basing you course choice on the current economic climate? Three or four years is a long time, for both the economy to change and also to be studying a subject in-depth. Last year I was reading Natural Sciences which had favourable career prospects. Although there were some aspects of the I liked, overall I hated it. The thought of spending another minute in a lab dissecting some poor animal or pipetting dangerous chemicals fills me dread. This year I decided to choose a course that suited my interests, I’d rather study something because I love it rather than something I find tedious just because it’s a stable sector of the economy.

It’s kind of nice to fill out the form with out the pressure of exams hanging over my head and being able to know in advance how many points I have. I feel sorry for the students sitting the exams this year as they is even more pressure on them as more people apply for third level courses forcing the points to rise.

So if you are filling out your CAO get on early to avoid giving the CAO extra money for Jaffa Cakes!

  1. benni
    January 31, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    May I ask you something?
    I’m from Germany and I intend to study in Ireland. I already applied to the CAO and filled in all forms. I also called the CAO-Office many times to get bit by bit the information I need but I got really tired to call them because I have to spend a lot of time just to get a free line.
    I already sent them my leaving certificate, an english transcript of it and a language certificate.
    Do I also have to hand in my birth certificate or other documents apart from these listed before?

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