Advice for Students and Parents – January 2021

Advice for Students and Parents – January 2021

Research courses thoroughly. Do an interest assessment to ensure one knows what one’s interests are … is it science, engineering, business, creative, social, languages, outdoor courses/careers, etc.

Be familiar with the different higher education course levels.

  • Level 8 honours degrees
  • Level 7 ordinary degrees
  • Level 6 certificate programmes

Know the entry requirements.

Obtain precise details of course content, and check the information by going into the course modules.

Find out what degree or certificate programmes lead to on completion. e.g., is it a professional course on graduation or will the course require a post graduate programme before one can enter the profession or labour market, such as accounting, etc.

Keep options open as much as possible and study to obtain a good result so that one is in the best position to obtain employment on completion of one’s studies, or that one’s results will allow one to undertake postgraduate/prof. Opportunities to complete one’s professional qualifications.

Be optimistic, confident and realistic in your choices and expectations.

Key Dates


Wed 20th Jan – Apply by 20th Jan to avail of discounted application fee of €30.00. This is also closing date for HPAT Registration.


Mon 1st Feb – Close of date for normal application is 1st Feb with a fee of €45.00. Ensure to tick box for DARE/HEAR application if one intends to apply. DARE/HEAR can offer places to eligible students on reduced points and extra college support.

– DARE is an admissions scheme to promote equity of access to higher education for school leavers with disabilities or students who have experienced additional educational challenges in second level education.

– HEAR is a third level admissions scheme for school leavers from socioeconomic disadvantaged backgrounds.

Mon 1st Feb – Restricted Courses – These courses have an additional assessment procedure. e.g., Admission Test (HPAT for Medicine), portfolios for art courses, auditions for music/drama etc. and must by applied for by 1st Feb.

Fri 5th Feb – Online facility to amend course choices becomes available for an additional fee of €10.00. (Generally, it is only those who have omitted a restricted course would utilise this facility).


Mon 1st Mar – Closing date for completion of online DARE/HEAR at 5.15pm, with DARE/HEAR supporting documentation to arrive at CAO before 15th Mar at 5.15pm.


Sat 1st May – Closing date for late applications is 1st May, with an additional fee of €60.00 online.

Sat 1st May – Change of Mind facility opens up in May and continues up to 1st July. This facility allows students to introduce, delete or move the order of courses already selected as much as one likes, with no extra fee with the exception of restricted courses.


Thurs 1st July – Change of mind deadline 1st July at 5.15pm.

Mature Applicant Courses

Application should be made by 1st Feb. Some institutions request applicants to make direct application to their colleges – see details on CAO handbook. I would suggest that mature applicants should make direct contact with the college that they wish to apply for to ensure that the necessary procedure relevant for that particular college or course is correct.

Course options other than third level CAO

QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland, formerly FETAC) now called QQI FET/FETAC Level 5/6.

  • One may also progress from these courses to higher education on a links but competitive basis if one desires. It is important to note that these courses, level 5/6 are very worthwhile in their own right and may be quite sufficient for some students.
  • If one intends to apply for QQI FET course, one should make application directly to various colleges. See details on their websites. Early application for these courses is advisable.


  • The range of careers in this area is expanding with the possibility of some programmes having a third level qualification, (e.g., Level 8 BA Hons in insurance practice) 3 years.
  • For further information check website –

Defence Forces

  • For information on careers in this area check website –

Useful Websites – Central Applications Office – National database with course information for information on National Framework of Qualification (NFQ) – Quality and Qualifications Ireland – Grant Application Body – Information on HEAR and DARE schemes – Expert Group on Future Skills Needs in Ireland  – Springboard+ is an upskilling initiative in higher education that offers free and subsidised courses at certificate, degree and masters levels leading to qualifications in areas where there are employment opportunities in the economy.

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