The Central Applications Office (CAO) process can seem like a daunting task. This is an essential component of the Irish higher education system, where the stakes are high and the pressure is real. However, in my recent interactions with students, I have noticed a few common mistakes that can make the process unnecessarily challenging. By being aware of these potential pitfalls, you can make your CAO application process smoother and more successful. This article will explore these common mistakes, and I encourage you to use resources like CareerHub for further career guidance support.

Mistake 1: Only Choosing High-Point Courses

One of the most common mistakes that students make is to fill their CAO application with only high-point courses. While ambition is commendable, it’s crucial to have a realistic perspective when selecting your courses.

Consider your academic performance and where you stand points-wise. Not everyone can or will achieve maximum points, and that’s okay! Make sure to include a mix of courses in your application. It’s a good idea to have some choices that align with your current points standing and a couple that are slightly below. This strategy not only broadens your opportunities but also acts as a safety net should your Leaving Certificate results not meet your expectations.

Mistake 2: Not Applying for High-Point Courses Out of Fear

On the flip side, some students avoid applying for high-point courses, fearing that they might not make the cut. Don’t let this fear deter you. Points can fluctuate each year based on demand, and you might perform better in your exams than you anticipate.

If you genuinely love a course, but it has high points, still put it down. If the points come down or if you do better than you think, you may end up getting in. Remember, if you don’t apply, you definitely won’t get it. So, dare to dream big and take a chance.

Mistake 3: Choosing Courses You Have No Interest In

Another mistake students make is including courses they have no interest in, purely as a “backup”. While it’s wise to have a contingency plan, it’s essential that this plan still aligns with your interests and potential career paths.

Do your research thoroughly for each course you include in your CAO application. Understand what the course entails, and what career opportunities it could lead to, and reflect on whether it genuinely interests you. Remember, you’re potentially investing three or four years of your life into this course, so you must find it engaging.

Mistake 4: Not Understanding the Importance of Choices 3-5

The way you order your choices in your CAO application is crucial. Some students, unfortunately, overlook this aspect and end up regretting their decision.

Specifically, the order of your 3rd to 5th choices is of paramount importance. This is because if you are offered your 3rd choice, for example, you won’t be offered your 4th to 10th choices, even if you meet the points and minimum entry requirements for them.

So, think carefully about your preferences when filling out your CAO form. Make sure the courses are listed in your genuine order of interest and not just based on points or perceived prestige.

These common mistakes can be avoided with careful planning, research, and a realistic understanding of your academic standing. Remember, the CAO application is not about ‘winning’ by getting into the highest point course but about ‘succeeding’ by finding the right course that suits your interests, abilities, and career aspirations.

As you navigate the CAO application process, consider using resources like CareerHub, which provides comprehensive career guidance support. They can help you make informed decisions about your future, offering advice and resources for course selection, understanding the CAO application process, and planning potential career paths.