Top Tips for CAO Journey

As we face into the latter part of 2016 many of us are looking forward to Christmas parties and New Year’s resolutions.  In the midst of celebrations and the positive oncoming of 2017, spare a thought for those who are about to guide his or her son or daughter through the most turbulent and stressful year of their young school lives… the Leaving Certificate year.  A year full of anticipation and hope, it can also be a year of indecision and confusion.    While some parents have had the good fortune to block out that whole year of their own lives from memory, more of us relive every scar … and often.   The thoughts of facing into it again with your own son or daughter may be more stressful that when you did the Leaving Cert yourself.  Add to that, the many CAO deadlines , different University prospectuses , web sites and information evenings and you’ve got yourself a very busy year indeed.   To make this year a little easier UL Links has put together an animated guide to the CAO deadlines, highlighting all the key dates and stages of the process …we hope this helps.  

In addition we asked one of the authors of ‘Aiming Higher’, the Higher Education Authority-funded booklet  designed to give parents and guardians of prospective third-level students a practical understanding of the Higher Education System in Ireland, and Director of Cooperative Education  and Careers at the University of Limerick, Patrice Twomey , to give UL Links  her top five tips on how parents and guardians can support second level students facing the CAO journey.   


“Remember you are the most significant influence on your children’s third level and career choices. You don’t need to have all of the answers…  but knowing how to ask the right questions can create conversation and keep the channels for communication and support wide open.

Make  time:

Think of your role in terms of making the time and creating the opportunities to talk to your son or daughter about their CAO options. Tap into their passions. Let your conversations be guided by their natural strengths and interests.

Decisions aren’t easy: 

Remember that decisions about CAO don’t always come neatly packaged. Your son or daughter may be very clear about what they want but many students are unclear about what course or future career they are interested in pursuing even at this stage.

  •  CAO is the first step, not the destination

Reassure them that their CAO choice does not somehow determine their whole future. In the new world of work, people will change jobs an average of eleven times during their careers.

No such thing as too much research:

Encourage them to research the courses they are interested in. Get them to look beyond the course title and to look at the course content and structure. 

There’s still lots of time:

Remind them that after the 1st of February deadline, they have plenty of time to revise their course and they can add to or amend the application right up to the 1st of July*’.

If you’d like to know more,  ‘Aiming Higher’ is available from  It is designed to help  parents  frame the questions that will prompt their daughter or son’s thinking around their individual talents, strengths and interests, and ultimately their chosen course. The guide will help parents to approach the ‘third level conversation’ with a greater and more informed confidence. 


Best of luck 
Patrice Twomey.

*With the exception of restricted courses.