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My son still hasn’t selected his CAO courses - and the exams are around the corner

There is time after the exams to finalise choices which do not necessarily rely on Leaving Cert points

My son sits the Leaving Cert soon, but is struggling to get motivated and can’t wait to finish school. When I asked him the other day what he had listed on his CAO form, he said he still hadn’t selected anything. I’m worried and not sure how to motivate him to plan for his future.

Your son’s perspective on life is not all that unusual. In the coming weeks he is facing the first public exams he has ever taken due to the cancellation of the Junior Certificate in 2021. That may be as much as he is capable of coping with for the time being.

He will have plenty of time after he finishes his final written paper to submit a list of CAO courses by the July 1st deadline. Leave any discussion on those options until he finishes his exams.

If at that stage he is still resisting applying for specific courses, I would not pressurise him. He is in the fortunate situation that his grades will be adjusted upwards to match the inflated grades secured by Leaving Certificate students from 2020 onwards.


Future Leaving Cert students – from 2025 onwards – will receive grades more closely in line with pre-Covid levels.

Furthermore, he may not be aware that he has lots of options beyond the CAO.

There are new so-called tertiary degrees (, which do not require CAO points, and are codelivered by higher education institutions and the Education and Training Boards. They provide a pathway to a degree in lots of areas, such as arts, business, nursing, etc.

Our colleges of further education are a great place to enhance skills in an area of interest. Afterwards, he can choose to enter the workforce or progress on to a CAO programme linked to his Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) course.

Apprenticeships were previously confined to the construction and motor trades. There are now some 64 earn-and-learn options across agriculture, bio pharma, construction, electrical, engineering, finance, hairdressing, healthcare, ICT and insurance. The list goes on. Many of these include a degree. Check online for more details (

If your son is struggling to decide, why not consider the answer Taoiseach Simon Harris gave to me in a recent interview. I asked what advice he would give to his 18-year-old self if he was choosing a career or study option. “Success is liking what you do,” the Taoiseach said.

Harris himself dropped out of a journalism degree and looked for a job as a researcher in the Dáil. Through learning his skills on the job, he progressed to where he is today in less than 20 years. Anything really is possible.

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