Choices: I haven’t applied to college – what study options are still open to me?

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Having seen their results, some students may need to rethink their plans, either because they have done better than expected or have fallen short of what they need for their chosen route.

There will also be many students who have not yet decided what to do next.

The good news is there are plenty of opportunities for further study.

CAO available Places

Some CAO courses will have more places available than applicants and so have vacancies. Any such courses will be listed in the available places section of, from noon on August 21.

Both CAO applicants and those who have not yet made any application to the CAO may apply. There is a fee of €45 for new applicants.

The list of courses with places available will be updated constantly until all offers have been exhausted, so it is advisable to check back regularly.

Existing CAO applicants will be asked to resubmit their original CAO list, leaving on it any courses they still wish to be considered for and adding in any new ‘vacant places’ courses for which they wish to apply in order of preference.


Further Education colleges offer student courses, generally known as post Leaving Certificate courses (PLCs), in a variety of areas, which may act as either a stepping stone to higher education or prepare them for entry to the world of work. These colleges are generally in the education and training board (ETB) sector.

PLC courses can be an excellent alternative for those considering repeating the Leaving Cert as they allow a student to enter a college environment and specialise in a specific area of interest or talent.

Courses are offered at Level 5 (one year) and Level 6 (two years). Many colleges have been accepting applications and conducting interviews since January, however, most are still taking applications. While many courses are now filled, it is equally likely that all colleges will have places available on some courses.

Applications are made directly to colleges and interested applicants should contact their local colleges for available courses and interview dates.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

An increasing number of apprenticeships (and traineeships, which are generally of shorter duration) are available, and are good options for those who fancy combining paid work experience with study as a means to a qualification.

As well as traditional trades, such as construction and engineering, apprenticeships are now available in other areas such as hospitality (commis chef and chef de partie), finance and computing. Recently, the Logistics Associate Apprenticeship – leading to a Level 6 qualification – was announced. It will be delivered by the DIT School of Management, Aungier Street, with the first intake of students in September.

Another new one, a two-year, Level 6 programme in auctioneering and property services – a collaboration between City of Dublin Education and Training Board and a consortium of industry representatives – has also been announced.

This year it will run in Ballsbridge College of Further Education and Cork College of Commerce. Apprentices will be on salaries of €20,000-€22,000. See

Traineeships are offered by education and training boards (ETBs)

Private Colleges

While the CAO processes applications for private colleges, such as Griffith College, for many courses, there are also courses available through direct entry, in a range of areas including business, acting, social care and computing.

Currently, there are 78 courses and their descriptions listed in the ‘direct entry course search’ on Students can also use the search function in, selecting ‘direct entry course’ to limit their search.

Students interested in pursuing study at a private college should contact the individual colleges, many of which will be holding open days in the coming weeks. Courses are available at all levels.

Typically, annual fees are around €5,000 but are tax-deductible at the 20pc rate. With the student contribution at €3,000 in pulic sector colleges, it might be cheaper to enrol in a local private college rather than to move away from home.

UK and Europe

The college application and entry process is very different in the UK. Entry requirements vary and we see different trends in course popularity. This can mean an Irish student receiving an offer for their area of interest, even if they do not qualify for a similar course at home.

Those interested can apply now, even if they have not used UCAS (the UK centralised applications agency) before. A list of available places is released on and applicants should deal directly with colleges in which they are interested.

UCAS is currently going through a process known as ‘clearing’. This allows those who have not yet entered the system to apply for any places that may be available. Anyone interested in clearing should start this process as soon as possible to have maximum choice.

For those who have already applied via UCAS, a process known as ‘adjustment’ opens tomorrow. This allows students who have performed better than expected to apply for places that had not been available to them previously.

While Brexit is causing uncertainty, the British government has committed to maintaining the rights of Irish nationals to access higher and further education courses on equal terms to UK nationals, including qualifying for student loans and support.

There are also opportunities to study in Europe – check out websites such as and

Irish Independent

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