CAO offers: Fingers crossed
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CAO offers are out! What do you need to do?

21 Aug 2017

As Leaving Cert students around Ireland learn whether they’ve received a CAO offer for the course of their choice, Ita McGuigan offers advice on what happens next.

A total of 80,345 individuals applied to the CAO this year. More than 50,000 offers have now been made to applicants who sat the Leaving Certificate in 2017, and to others who sat the examinations in recent years and have decided that their time for third-level education is now.

Applicants have been able to view their offers since 6am this morning (21 August), and they will also receive confirmation of their offer by post, email and SMS text (if they chose these options).

But what happens now?

I received my first choice CAO offer

Receiving a first-preference Round 1 offer is testament to you on all your hard work. Congratulations!

You have until 5.15pm on 28 August to accept or decline your offer. Remember, if you do not accept this offer, it will lapse. Once your offer is accepted, it is time to start planning your next educational adventure. Connect with the student’s union of your new college through social media, as these channels can be great sources of information on accommodation, student welfare, student finance etc.

Keep an eye out for official resources, such as Dublin City University’s (DCU) Student Support and Development Orientation Guide for first-year students, available online. The orientation schedules have been compiled with a view to ensuring that you are well equipped with all of the knowledge you need to start you on your way to a successful university career. Year on year, the DCU staff listen to the feedback from first-year students, and add or remove sessions to ensure that everything you take part in during this first week is highly relevant to you, as a new student.

I didn’t get my first choice

If you didn’t get your first-choice offer, but you did receive an offer, congratulations to you, too. If you feel disappointed and think you deserved a better result, you may have a case to get one or more Leaving Certificate papers rechecked.

Remember, with this year’s new CAO scoring system, if you got a grade 1pc or 2pc less than you expected, that could mean you have missed out on potentially 12 additional CAO points. In the case of receiving a H8 rather than a H7, that could mean a difference of 37 additional points, so the €40 per subject may be worth it. If you are upgraded in any subject, that €40 is reimbursed.

I’m not sure whether to accept my CAO offer

If you didn’t get your first preference and you’re unsure whether to accept your second, third or even 10th choice offer, remember that you have some time before you make your final decision.

  • You can choose to accept and, should your grades be upgraded, or if your higher preference becomes available in subsequent offer rounds (and you meet the new points and basic entry requirements), you will receive an offer even if you have accepted an earlier lower CAO preference offer. If you do accept your lower preference and don’t get offered any subsequent offers, it may also be a blessing in disguise and you could thrive in your offered programme.
  • Use the time wisely to find out as much as possible about the programme and the university in advance of accepting your offer.
  • The Irish Independent’s freephone helpline (1800 265 165) has been open since 10am on results day (16 August) to take calls from students, parents and teachers seeking advice and information on what choices are available to students. This service will continue until Wednesday 23 August. The Irish Times also has an online CAO helpdesk available from today.
  • Talk to your school guidance counsellor, your teachers and your parents.
  • Phone the third-level institution you received the offer from, and ask to speak to a member of the school’s liaison team. Arrange a campus tour, and talk to current students and academics to ensure you make an informed decision.

I received two offers

It is possible to receive two offers – a Level 8, and Level 6 or 7 programme offer. Some unwisely think they should automatically accept the Level 8 offering as it’s a higher qualification.

That may be true, but if offered a 10th choice offering on a Level 8 programme and a first or second preference on a Level 7 qualification, I would recommend the student seriously considers their preferred career path. Many Level 7 programmes will lead a student with a decent graduating result into the career of his or her choice, which may be preferable to settling for a 10th-preference Level 8 programme choice.

However, students are urged to check entry paths to Level 8 programmes from Level 6 or 7 programmes, and see if that option is available.

I received my first choice offer, but now want my second

If you have received your first preference CAO choice and now think that you would have preferred your second or third preference, unfortunately you cannot move down your CAO choices – only up.

I didn’t receive an offer, or I don’t want the offer I received

For those of you who received an unwanted CAO offer, or no offer at all, don’t despair. There are many options open to you.

1. Minimum entry requirements

Even if you have more points than required, you may still not meet the basic entry requirement, meaning you will not be offered a place. For example, to study journalism in DCU, you need a minimum of a H4 in English.

Similarly, regardless of your total points, if you do not meet the mathematics requirement for the BSc in data science at DCU, you will not be offered a place. All third-level institutions will have specific subject entry requirements for some undergraduate programmes, so bear that in mind.

2. Leaving Certificate recheck:

If a student is genuinely disappointed in one or more of their grades and had higher expectations, there is a personalised application form provided by the State Examination Commission (SEC) included in the results envelope, which enables any student to request a review of the scripts. This form must be completed and returned to the school where the student sat their examinations by Tuesday 22 August 2017.

If, after viewing your script, you feel that there has been an error in the marking, you can appeal using the appeal application form, which must be with the SEC by Wednesday 6 September 2017. The appeal fee is €40 per subject in the case of the Leaving Certificate, and €15.50 in the case of the Leaving Certificate Applied. The fee will be refunded to you if your result is upgraded.

3. Second Round 2 offer

Round 2 offers are available online from 6am on 31 August and you have until 6 September to accept if you receive an offer then.

4. CAO available places

The CAO website is continuously updated with programmes that have available places. Students who meet the basic entry requirements, regardless of their CAO points, may be eligible for a place.

5. Leaving Certificate repeat

If students feel they didn’t achieve their full potential, there is always an option to repeat. I would highly recommend that you discuss this option at length with your guidance counsellor, teachers, principal and parents.

6. QQI model

Choosing the QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) route, as opposed to repeating the Leaving Certificate, proves to be the correct path for many students. For some, a year or two in a college of further education can help to confirm whether they are on the correct career path. It might also prove useful in determining that a particular course was not for them, rather than only realising that after two years in a university programme.

Not all undergraduate programmes are accessible through the QQI model, so I would strongly recommend speaking to your guidance counsellor before deciding to take this route.

By Ita McGuigan

Ita McGuigan is part of the schools’ liaison team at DCU, and a member of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.

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