After two years of a global pandemic, any student completing their CAO application this year could be forgiven for feeling added stress and concern over their educational future.

While it’s normal to feel worried when a life change is on the horizon, it’s also important to keep some things in perspective.

Many of the most fulfilling careers are found towards the end of a winding path. Sometimes, you don’t get the course you want, so you take another course or an apprenticeship. Along the way – regardless of your educational route – you will likely discover an area of personal talent and passion.

When you pursue what you love, you will never be out of a job – so think about what makes you happy and what will make you feel successful (because we all have different ideas of success).

The world is your oyster

When it comes to food and agriculture, in particular, there are so many possibilities for fulfilling careers – some which might not even exist, yet. With ever-expanding technology and new ideas around agriculture on the horizon, your generation is the new wave of sustainable food and ag professionals. That in itself is something to feel proud of, even if you’re just beginning your education.

Recent changes

The past few years have brought some important changes for prospective students to keep in mind when submitting their CAO application. As explained in our 2021 education supplement, University College Dublin (UCD) has made changes to its agricultural science application process.

In previous years, you could have applied for specific courses – like forestry or horticulture – under unique course codes. Now, you simply apply for their Agricultural Science Options course and can then specialise once you are immersed in the course work.

NUI Galway introduced their new Agricultural Science programme in 2021; providing further options for prospective students.

Technological universities

Additionally, some of the courses offered under specific colleges in previous years may have moved to a newer technological university. There are now five technological universities either in operation or planned within Ireland: Technological University Dublin, Munster Technological University (MTU), Technological University for the South-East Ireland (TUSEI), Connacht Ulster Alliance (CUA) and Technological University of the Shannon.

As of now, three are fully established (Munster Technological University, Technological University Dublin and Technological University of the Shannon), with the remainder to likely be fully established in the coming year.

For the 2021 season, Cork Institute of Technology and IT Tralee had their own higher education institutions (HEI) codes and their points are displayed accordingly. From 2022, they both will come under the one code (‘MT’ for Munster Technical University) for 2022.

Don’t panic

In 2021, we saw an overall increase in CAO applications and point increases in some courses due to increased demand. What the demand for course places will be like for 2022 is yet to be seen, and whether points will increase along with demand is another matter altogether. Although unable to comment as to whether demand for courses will continue to increase, CAO communications officer Eileen Keleghan says there are many factors which could lead to point fluctuation.

“Points can fluctuate any year due to a number of factors, including demand for the course, the number of places made available by the HEIs, and the performance of applicants,” she explains. “The advice that we always give to applicants is to list courses based on genuine order of preference and they will get the course highest up on their list that they are deemed eligible for, if any.

“When the examination results are released, CAO will first check the applicant’s minimum entry requirements for each course before calculating a points score and placing the applicant on a list for each of their course choices based on their examination performance – when the HEIs instruct CAO to issue offers to ‘X’ number of people, the applicant’s position on the order of merit list for that course will determine whether they will be deemed entitled to an offer in that round.

“The points score published for a course in round one reflect the points score of the last applicant to receive an offer in that round,” she adds.

Dates to remember:

20 Jan (passed): Apply online to avail of discount

1 Feb: Normal closing date for applications

5 Feb: Online facility to amend course choices opens

1 March: Closing date for amending course choices. Closing date for amending course choices. Closing date for final completion of online HEAR/DARE forms.

4 March: Late application facility opens

1 May: Closing date for late applications

5 May: Online change of mind facility becomes available

1 July: Change of mind facility closes

Offer dates are yet to be confirmed

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