Featured Advice
What are your interests?



The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with clever technology. They will often follow the latest developments in their chosen field, and prefer mentally stimulating environments.



Choosing the right CAO course for you

Students cannot underestimate the importance of researching courses

Deciding which CAO courses to apply for can be the most difficult part of the application process for many students. The importance of doing your research cannot be underestimated!

CareersPortal have many tools which can help you to avoid silly mistakes and assist you in making the right decision, regardless of your starting point.

The CAO CourseFinder allows users to search undergraduate courses using any combination of filters including; Career Interests, Career Sectors, Regions, Colleges, CAO points, availability of QQI Progression routes, no maths required and much more.

Results are instant with information on Further Education and Training Links and Career Progression. Favourite courses can be saved and revisited or printed out and compared. 

Uncovering your particular interests, personality, aptitudes, values and skills and being aware of these things can really help you to figure out what college courses will be a good match for you. The greater the overlap between your interests and personal characteristics and those required by the area of study, the greater the degree of satisfaction you will have in that area of study.

Visit CareersPortal's Self - assessment area

Each year a new report is released highlighting the number of students who drop out of third level courses, or don’t progress from first year. The main reasons given always include choosing the wrong course and not having done sufficient research on the course content.

Reflect - Ask yourself:

  • What subjects am I good at /confident in?
  • Would I enjoy studying this subject for another two - four years?
  • Is there some area I feel particularly drawn towards?
  • Is this something I really want to do? (Be honest!), or am I just going along with friends or other students?


The next step is identifying courses that suit you. Start by searching for courses in your areas of Interest. Visit Course Search Tools to help with this.

Then, find out as much as you can about the particular courses that attract you such as module content, duration of course, history of points, number of years, work experience elements, erasmus opportunities, career options etc. before putting them down on your CAO form.

It is really useful to look at course videos and hear what other students have to say about the course before putting it on your list. 

Study Course Detail

  • Read the detailed information about each course that appeals to you
  • Pay particular attention to any specific entry requirements listed e.g. a particular LC subject such as Higher Level Maths or Irish
  • What is the duration of the course?

Ask yourself

  • Is this course relevant to the career area I have an interest in?
  • Will this course lead to a professional qualification for the career area I’m interested in?
  • Is it very academic? Will I be happy on a very academic course with lots of theory, essays, and written examinations?
  • Would I be better to look at courses which involve a higher proportion of practical work, where I am learning more skills and less theory?
  • Where is the college / university located?
  • Will there be extra accommodation costs etc. involved and will I be able to afford them?

Find out more

Ask others – Students, Lecturers, Tutors, Parents, Guidance Professionals

  • See if there are any course videos available
  • Get an opinion from a student who is doing the course
  • Talk to course lecturers /Tutors
  • Check out when the college Open Day is happening and make sure to go along, especially if you are seriously considering a course at a particular college.
  • Most Institutes of Technology, colleges and Universities have Open days, usually between September and February each year. Make every effort to go along and speak to students, course lecturers, college tutors and admissions staff
  • Find out not just which subjects you will be studying on the course that interests you, but also check out the content of the individual modules for each subject. In this way you will know exactly what lies ahead of you and there will be no surprises.

Finally  - Don’t rush your decision, but don’t be late! 

  • Students sometimes feel under pressure because they must submit a CAO form by February 1st.. However, for most courses (with the exception of many creative arts and portfolio-based programmes, as well as medical courses) you can change your mind up to July 1st using the CAO Change of Mind form.
  • The important thing is to have your application in the system by 31st January. You can revisit it and make changes free of charge as you find out more and give your choices more consideration. 
Note: Courses listed as "restricted” in the CAO handbook must be included on your CAO application by February 1st 2018. Availing of the CAO Change of mind Facility for these courses will not be an option.

Visit CHOOSING CAO COURSES for more useful information to help you with making the right choices.

Importance of course order on your CAO Application

It is important to remember that courses should always be listed in order of preference only. Students will be offered the single highest preference course on each list (Level 8 and Level 7/6) for which they have met all the entry requirements and have achieved the minimum points.

A useful demo CAO application form is available for students HERE 

Video: CAO application, offer and acceptance processes.

Key Dates:

  • 20th Jaunary 2018 - CAO application Deadline for Reduced application fee (€30.00) 
  • 1st February 5.15pm - Normal CAO application Deadline with full fee (€40.00)
  • 1st March 5.15pm - CAO Change of Mind Facility Closes

A full list of key dates can be found here

Don't Forget ...

Download the FREE Leaving Cert CAO Points Calculator App NOW! 

Be prepared for the mock exams with this essential tool for all Leaving Cert students. Designed for both iPad and iPhone, the Leaving Cert CAO Points Calculator calculates your CAO points instantly based on your exam results.

The CareersPortal Team


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