First-round CAO offers for college places will be made on Monday, August 21st. What can you expect to happen next, and how do you handle it?
In the early hours of this morning, about 700 second-level school principals collected the results of this year’s Leaving Certificate exams from their local post offices.
Over the following hours, they reviewed how all their sixth-year students performed, and identified those who might require special support and advice when they come to collect their results after 9am.
Students may not have slept well last night and will probably approach their school with both excitement and trepidation. They will have the opportunity to meet their classmates outside while they all wait for the signal from the principal to come forward for their individual envelope.
When students get that envelope into their hand, invariably they move away from the year group to discover what grades they have achieved, before sharing their news with fellow students and teachers.
Success in the Leaving Cert comes in many forms. For one student, a score of 547 points may be devastating in terms of studying veterinary medicine at UCD; for another, 262 points may represent a huge achievement.
Whatever your results, accept them as a fair reflection of your work over the past six years.
However, if you feel a specific grade falls far below your expectation, there is a document in your envelope that enables you to request a review of the scripts in any subject or subjects you wish, at no cost. You have until Tuesday, August 22nd, to return the completed form to your principal.
Calculate your CAO points
For the 80 per cent of current year Leaving Cert students who have applied for a college place through the CAO application process, once you have got over the initial excitement of seeing your grades in print, your mind will turn to your CAO points score.
There is a totally new point scoring system in place this year, operating alongside the new H and O, 10 per cent grading bands which will, from 2017, operate within the Leaving Cert.
It will mean that the 2016 CAO points requirement published in this supplement of The Irish Times will not be replicated in the points required for all this year's courses which will be published next Monday morning
You are likely to do this exercise only once in a lifetime; it is easy to get it wrong, particularly as the CAO points applying to each H and O grade is brand new, and thus cause yourself and your parents unnecessary anxiety. Therefore, take a few minutes away from the excitement and carefully determine your points score. You should have the new higher and ordinary points chart to hand, and your teachers or guidance counsellor will help you make sure your calculations are correct.
Remember, you count the best six scores you’ve achieved across all subjects. If you did the LCVP and your score for the module is better than your lowest of the six scores, you can include the LCVP instead. If you got at least a H6 in higher-level maths, you add 25 to the normal points score attached to the grade you achieved.
There are some slight variations in how points are calculated by some third-level colleges, and all such variations are clearly outlined in the CAO handbook. If you cannot find your copy, it is online at .cao.ie.
College place offers
When your points score is calculated, you can apply it to the courses you have listed on your CAO application. The points requirements for these programmes last year are published in today's Irish Times supplement as a rough guide to help you identify which programmes you may be offered next Monday morning.
Be aware: this is not an exact science, as points for all programmes increase and decrease annually as the demand among applicants and the number of places offered by each college, changes from year to year.
Furthermore, many places on the programmes you are interested in have already been allocated. In the past six weeks, the CAO offered places and received acceptances from more than 8,000 of this year’s CAO applicants. These include applicants aged over 23, those who deferred a place in 2016 and re-applied for it this year, and those who sought a place based on a QQI award through a PLC programme taken during the past academic year.
Also being offered places next Monday are those with awards other than the Irish Leaving Cert, mainly school-leavers who have taken Northern Ireland or UK-based A-levels, and other EU end-of-school exams. Colleges now also offer a growing number of places to applicants from outside the EU at full fees to generate additional funding for courses.
Some students will get an offer of a college place on lower points than those published next Monday. This is because the CAO has been instructed to offer a place by a specific college based on a successful Disability Access Route to Education (Dare) or Higher Education Access Route (Hear) application, or based on a scholarship programme, often in a designated sport.
For all other applicants, your success or otherwise in getting an offer on a specific course will be decided when the admission officers representing all the colleges meet in the CAO offices in Galway this Friday. They will know exactly how many places on each course are already spoken for through the processes above, and how many more to offer to the remaining applicants.
Once the CAO knows the number of places for every course on offer, it enters that data into its computer system to determine what offers will be made to you online at 6am on Monday, August 21st. Until then, neither CAO officials nor college admissions officers know the points required to secure the last available place on offer in this round. Tables of the points scores of the last person to secure an offer on each course this year will be published in The Irish Times next Monday in the First Round Offers/College Choice education supplement.
If there are more applicants with the same points than there are remaining places on offer, the CAO computer will generate a random number for each of these applicants; those holding the highest numbers numerically will be offered the available places. When this occurs, an asterisk (*) appears beside the printed points score in the published charts.
Round two offers
If, following a week’s reflection, some applicants decide not to accept the course they’ve been offered or choose to defer acceptance for a year, the colleges may re-issue these places in round-two offers.
Alternatively, most colleges build an anticipated non-acceptance rate into their initial offers and may choose to make no further offers on most programmes in round two.
At 6am next Monday, the CAO will place all offers live on cao.ie. Each applicant has an individual CAO application number to access their own CAO file. The CAO also posts the offers to arrive in each candidate’s home on Monday morning. You will have a week to accept a place, either online or by post. If you are using the postal system, students are advised to get a certificate of postage from the post office. (Forms are on the inside back cover of the CAO handbook.)
If accepting a place online, students must print off a receipt of their acceptance before ending their online session with CAO.
Deferring a place
Individual colleges, and not the CAO, deal with requests for deferrals of college place offers. If you wish to defer a place offered to you on Monday, you must immediately write to the college setting out your reason for seeking a deferral. Write “deferred entry” clearly on the envelope and attach to the letter the appropriate part of the offer notice, that is, the part showing the offer you wish to have deferred. The request must arrive at the relevant college by Friday, August 25th. The college will let you know its decision immediately. Most colleges allow deferrals when requested to do so by a student.
You will not disqualify yourself from other offers if you accept/refuse any offer you receive next Monday. You are entitled to be offered any place that becomes available higher up your order of preference on either of the two lists. Whether you have accepted a place on another course or not is irrelevant – you will be offered the new place anyway.
If you choose to accept the new offer, you will simply have any registration fees you paid to the first college transferred to the second one.
Can you be offered a place on a course you have not applied for but now want? Only if vacancies for the course are advertised on cao.ie. This happens if the original list of qualified applicants to the CAO is exhausted, or if a college has offered a new course since July 1st.
Check that you meet the minimum entry requirements before you place any course with vacant places on your existing list of choices.
No payment is required with the acceptance of a CAO offer. The college will send out any bills for tuition fees separately. All inquiries about such fees should be directed to the fees office of the college offering the place, not to the CAO. Students will, however, have to pay charges when they register at their new college.
Result appeals and college offers
If you feel your result in any subject is not a fair reflection of your work, and you have successfully appealed your grade, how will that affect any offer you hope to receive from the CAO?
The State Examinations Commission will automatically notify the CAO in mid-October in the event of a successful appeal of any grade you receive this morning. Following that, you will be contacted regarding any new offer for a course that this upgrade may entitle you to.
In most cases, upgrades happen four to six weeks after courses start. Many colleges may offer the option to take up the place immediately, although due to the size of the existing class group, some courses may not offer you a place this year.
If you want to accept a new place offered but cannot get in this year, you can accept the place as a deferred entry for next year.
For deferred-entry students, the most important point to remember is that they must apply to the CAO again by February 1st, 2018.
They should place the deferred course as their only choice on the application form in 2018, to take up the original place offer.
Remote access to results
Access to exam results for those who do not collect them from their school is available online from midday today, Wednesday, August 16th.
Access to the online results service, which requires the candidate’s examination number and unique personal identification number (Pin), is through examinations.ie. If your results are not what you expected, it may be time for a recheck.