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Tips for School-leavers Finalising CAO Course Choices

With only a few days left to nail down your course choices, what’s important is that you do what you can to maximise your chances of having a great college experience. While the goal is to find the career/work that is RIGHT for you, where you get to do what you love in an area that you are passionately interested in, the reality is that it is somewhat down the road. In the meantime, the aim is to give due diligence to your search for the career path that appears to best suit you now. As you don’t have a crystal ball, there is no point in worrying about what you will or won’t want in 3 or 4 years’ time. So, right now, you want to make an informed decision, move on and enjoy the summer.



It is essential that you find your course interesting. Your self-motivation will ensure that you will do well, deepening your knowledge and learning a whole range of new skills. Employers are looking for people who show capacity to do well. It is important to note that there is a difference between doing something that you are good at and that comes easy and doing something that you love. Go for something you love or are interested in. It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that studying something you are good at, but not hugely interested in, is an easy option. Not so! Think of the months and years ahead when it will be part of your job.


How to make an informed decision

There are two elements to making an informed decision - knowing yourself and carrying out effective research. Self-awareness or knowing yourself takes time and comes with life experiences. As there is no crash-course in self-awareness, for now just try to draw from what you intuitively know about your likes and dislikes. What subject areas are you naturally drawn to and get lost in? If you were in a large book shop with every subject under the sun, which section would you gravitate towards? CareersPortal has a free ‘interest inventory’ that you may fine helpful.


Effective research has two elements – internet research and talking to people who have first-hand experience of the course, progression routes and career paths. You can view the full course content for each module on the Qualifax website and also the employment and post graduate opportunities for all the courses you have listed. You can check out the list of possible courses or occupations which may match your interests on careersportal.ie. Be sure that each course you list on your CAO form is still on offer and has not been discontinued? Also, check that you meet the entry requirements in terms of having taken the required subjects, at the appropriate level in your leaving cert.


Seeking information from current students or relatively recent graduates is an important part of your research. Remember that they speak from their unique perspective and their opinions are merely opinions, not facts. Only you know what is right for you. You are the expert on you. With the CAO deadline looming, you can talk to the colleges directly this week. Some colleges even have special events for applicants who may still be considering course options.


Choosing courses is your decision so accept total responsibility. If it doesn’t turn out as you would like, learn from the experience. There is huge value in looking at what it is about something that you don’t like.

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