My daughter worries she’ll make the wrong CAO choice. How can I help her?

Think of your child’s strongest aptitudes and help identify education options in tune with them

My daughter in Leaving Cert year has registered with the CAO. She is a bright student and has always performed well in exams. However, she has no idea what to study beyond school and is feeling a bit anxious. Given rapid changes in technology and the economy, I feel woefully underqualified to give her career advice. Can you advise of any approach to help ensure she selects the right course?

As a parent, you can provide vital and much-needed support to your daughter in choosing a career or course that will help them realise their full potential.

You are correct: the old world of work bears no relationship to the rapidly changing nature of it in 2023. The sectors of the Irish economy that are now generating thousands of highly paid jobs in sectors such as IT, for example, did not exist when you entered the workforce. It’s important, then, not to direct your child’s career choices based on your perception of what is in their best interest.

Firstly, I’d advise you to encourage your daughter to have an open mind. Educational and training programmes are changing constantly. Try to make sure she structures her research in a systematic manner, so she comes to realise which option most suits her own skills and talents. Websites such as and provide a treasure trove of information.


Secondly, no matter how bright or academic your child is, they should consider options outside high points degree programmes. Accepting that a high-points course in a top university may not be the best fit for your child is not easy; some parents even feel it is a sign they have somehow failed in their parenting role. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Think of what your child’s strongest aptitudes are and help them identify educational or training options in tune with them. Think of the kind of education that best suits your child’s learning style. How your son or daughter learns most effectively plays a huge role in selecting the most appropriate course or training option. There is an ever-expanding range of third-level courses, further education opportunities, apprenticeships, traineeships and employment opportunities for young people today.

Aptitude and interest tests can help identify learners’ strengths across a range of abilities if they are not sure themselves. I, along with many guidance colleagues, use Your daughter’s guidance counsellor is best placed to recommend a suitable test provider.

Remember: everyone is different and the combination of factors that leads to their most effective learning style can vary.

Thirdly, parents need to realise that supporting a son or daughter to find a match with a course or other option that plays to their existing strengths helps them grow in confidence and self-belief. It consolidates their sense of self-worth, leads to healthier relationships, positive mental and physical health and puts them in a positive place to enable them to flourish.