CAO Decision Making: Where to Start?

Banner of CAO Decision Making: Where to Start?
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Filling out your CAO form can be a stressful task, even for those who know exactly what they want to do! Below, Ellen, a past top student, discusses some options you have to explore.

There are many different ways to get you to where you want to go, whether that's through an apprenticeship, a PLC course or the traditional college route. Everyone learns in different ways and the more traditional methods may not interest all types of students. Thankfully, there's something out there for everyone!

Traditional Undergrad

The traditional undergraduate progression is mostly for students who know exactly what they want to study or at least the area in which they want to study. However, with points increasing every year, students may be put under immense pressure to achieve entry requirements or end up settling for a course lower down on their CAO list. Nonetheless, the undergrad is the most direct next step and is exactly what some students need to progress.

Post Leaving Cert Courses (PLCs)

Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses are an excellent choice for students who may not be quite ready for college or for students who are still unsure as to what they want to study. Many PLC institutions are allocated a certain amount of specific college courses each year, provided students fulfil the entry requirements. Ask your guidance counsellor about QQI FET / FETAC links or for more information see Further Education PLC on

Gap Year

Gap years are a great idea if you need some time to readjust after the Leaving Cert. You can travel, get a job and generally do anything you want to do for a year. However, it may be difficult to return to studying the following year so you need to have a strict plan to adhere to! Plan a trip, apply for a job, sign up for a short programme in your local ETB (Education and Training Board) or learn a new skill. Enjoy your time off but make sure to also have a plan for returning to studies.


Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly popular in Ireland as they blend formal education with practical training. 'Traditional' apprenticeships have evolved and now cover most industries including science, technology, medicine, finance, hospitality, etc. This is life-changing for students who may struggle with classroom-based learning. For more information on apprenticeships, check out Apprenticeship Information - CareersPortal

The above is not an exhaustive list of options, there are limitless opportunities out there for students. You may not know exactly what you want to do but make sure you know what you don't want to do! CAO allows you to change your courses list several times during the year so, keep an open mind. 

Good luck with deciding where to continue next in your education journey. There are so many options out there for you to reach your dream education or career so don't lose hope if Plan A doesn't work out!

Ellen and the Studyclix team :)

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