The Leaving Cert exams are over – highlighter-filled, dog-eared books thrown in a corner at home. So what’s to worry about? Well for most, nothing, we hope.
However, for some, the worry of not having done as well as had been hoped brings up the question, should I change my CAO preferences? Since May 5, you may change your CAO course choices – without cost – as often as you wish, up to 5.15pm on Tuesday, July 1. The best time to do this, if at all, may be in a relaxed frame of mind a few days after your exams are over.
Remember, however, to leave your course choices in order of genuine preference, regardless of what points you feel you may get.
There are a few very valid reasons why this is important:
1. You have so many choices (10 Level 8 and 10 Level 7/6 choices) so as long as you believe your last few choices are achievable points-wise, then you’ve nothing to lose by putting your course of preference at the top, even if it required very high points last year;
2. In spite of what research and the experts say, nobody is 100% sure what way the points will go for every course, up or down;
3. You may get offered your course of first preference as late as October in Round 4 because others didn’t accept the offer of a place on this course or because a result or two you got rechecked got upgraded;
4. You are your own worst critic. Every year, a large number of Leaving Cert students underestimate their points. Remember that papers that were widely deemed ‘harsh’ will often be marked easier than the State Exams Commission originally planned;
5. For some, it’s important what others know about your results but remember that nobody, bar yourself, needs to know whether you were offered your first, fifth or 10th choice.
The bottom line is to leave your courses in order of genuine preference. Do not remove choices from your list of course preferences because you are afraid you will not get the points for them. Year after year, this mistake is made by students who live to regret it, so don’t you make it.
If you submit a Change of Mind, it cancels and supersedes all the previous course choices in any category in which changes are made. However, choices in the two categories (Level 8 and Level 7/6) are considered to be completely separate from each other for this purpose – for example, a change of Level 8 course choices will not affect Level 7/6 choices.
Restricted-Application Courses, which are added for the first time via a Change of Mind, are invalid choices and will not be considered.
If you make a change of mind, you will receive a revised Statement of Course Choices to confirm that your new course choices have been entered into your computer record. If you change online, and have supplied an email address, an acknowledgement will also be sent to that email address – changing online is safest at www.cao.ie. If it does not arrive by July 7, you must contact CAO immediately and provide proof of the submission of the Change of Mind.
It is very important that your course choices are absolutely correct. Therefore, if you are not going to be around at the time when the revised statement is due, you must arrange for someone to check that it arrives and the contents are correct and accurately reflect your wishes. Do not wait until August to notify CAO of errors or omissions, as it will be too late to do anything about it at that stage.
Remember, you don’t have to change your mind just because you hear that others are doing so. If you made a well-informed, careful choice of courses on the original application earlier in the year, you may not want to change a single thing. However, for other reasons, you may wish to change your mind:
1. You have become more interested in a course you had not originally applied for, or realise now that a course you had applied for does not interest you as much anymore;
2. You may have discovered a course in the same field that suits you better for reasons such as having a work placement included, delivery or assessment techniques that suit your learning/assessment styles better or being closer to home/ easier to access;
3. You may have seen a new course in CAO’s Important Changes list, which you did not know was available. This list is available on the CAO’s website.
The cost of making a mistake is massive financially. Tuition fees to start afresh in a new undergraduate degree the following year will stand at between €5,000 to €10,000, along with the Student Contribution, which is set to rise to €3,000 in 2015, plus accommodation, transport and living expenses for another year, and no grant if you got one for the first year. The importance of correct CAO choices cannot be underestimated.
By Maria Campion