There are still options if you did not get the CAO offer you wanted

Good advice here

Donnchadh O'Mahony


Donnchadh O'Mahony


Carlow students have just ended a long, five-day wait, from getting their Leaving Cert results to getting an offer from the CAO. From 6am this morning Leaving Cert students could login to their CAO account to see what offers, if any, they have received. Offers will also come via the post as well.

But what if you didn’t get the offer you really wanted? What are your options?

Vacant Places: The Vacant Places list will go online the day after the CAO offers come out. These are the list of courses that colleges, universities or Institutes of Technology did not have enough applications to fill all their places. It might be worth exploring some of these options and applying for them through the CAO website.

Private Colleges: This has become a popular option in more recent times. With the student contribution fee at €3,000 there is not a huge gap in the cost of Private College and Public College. Some courses in Private Colleges are offered through the CAO and some are not but this is certainly another option for students. Private Colleges can take students onto their courses even if they have not got the minimum points requirements.

UK (UCAS): Applying through UCAS for Colleges in the UK has become less popular due to the uncertainty of Brexit. However, UCAS has something similar to the CAO’s vacant places called the ‘Clearing System’. These are courses that also have not been filled. You can apply for theses courses through

PLC Courses: PLCs have become hugely popular recently. The courses the PLCs offer are progression courses and are often Level 5 or 6 on the QQI framework. There is an option for you to apply to colleges or universities as a PLC student after you finish your course. At present the closing date of application for PLCs have past but it might be worth checking with your local provider to see if there are any unfilled or vacant places available.

Europe: Studying in Europe has become very common with Irish students in the last number of years. Previously it was a popular route for Irish students who wanted to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary. Of late Irish students have gone to Europe to study Arts, Fashion Design and even Sports Science. Studying in Europe can sometimes be more cost effective than studying in Ireland. Explore for everything you need about studying in Europe.

Apprenticeships: Apprenticeships are not as ‘traditional’ as they once were. There are more ‘white collar’ apprenticeships available such as Insurance and Accountancy. Visit for more information.

Repeating the Leaving: Finally, there is an option to repeat the Leaving Cert. This is a very difficult decision and is not to be made lightly. Approximately, 3,000 students repeat the Leaving Cert every year to make sure they get the course they want.

It is important not to take a course for the sake of it. Take your time with making your decision. There is an option there for you. If you need some advice talk you your Principal or Guidance Counsellor.

Donnchadh is a Guidance Counsellor and an Assistant Principal in Oatlands College in Dublin. Donnchadh can be seen privately through his practice O’Mahony Careers which is based in Laois. For more information check