The Leaving Cert Year


We are into September already and as your teen starts the Leaving Cert Year, parents know that they will face much stress and even overwhelm over the next 12 months.

It can be an expensive year with many outlays for books, exams, grinds and so on. But most of all there is a lot of stress, not just with the exam student, but in the entire family. And it is the parents who are going to have to manage the stress and friction that arises between the family members.



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One of the main causes of anxiety during this time is uncertainty. Not only is there uncertainty around study, results and career choice but also how the whole application processes work to colleges and courses. While the Leaving Cert student will get some guidance from school, the parents can often feel they themselves are struggling to understand what is going on. Often the students don't pick up important details that parents do need to know about, especially the financial elements of college. The parents themselves may not have applied to the CAO themselves as a teen or may not even have sat the Leaving Cert if they are new to the country.

If you can identify with this situation, I am here to help and explain a few things to ease the burden of the unknown.

Here in the Republic of Ireland, we have three main streams to get into further education:

1.   The CAO

The Central Applications Office manages the applications to all Universities and Institutes of Technology (IT’s) and their associated colleges where a significant majority of Leaving Cert students apply. The CAO opens for registration on 5th November each year and closes on 1st February. Afterwards, there is a change of mind facility available right up to 1st July but not for all courses. The application process is mostly online with some communication through the post.

2.   PLC’s

Post Leaving Cert Courses are courses that could be viewed as a stepping stone between secondary school and University. But they do provide a qualification in their own right. They are an excellent choice if a student isn't sure of which career path to take after school. Or your teen may not be quite ready for the bigger leap to third level. Applications are directed to each individual College of Further Education. Each county will have colleges running PLC’s so check for availability in schools in your area run by the ETBI.

3.   Apprenticeships

These are a great way to gain formal qualifications in certain trades. However, more and more they are being used as an alternative route to get Honours degrees through combined work and study schemes. Applications are made to individual employers and once an apprenticeship contract is accepted, the apprentice automatically gains entrance to the college that is supporting the learning element of that scheme. Check out to see what is available. New apprenticeships are added each year.


And of course, your teen may not want to go down the route of higher or further education after the leaving cert. There is much to be gained by working for a few years and then deciding if study is an appropriate route to go down. Those individuals are gathering really important skills that can only be learned in the workplace. And study is not for the young...I took on a degree at the age of 48!


Supporting your Teen

As most Leaving Cert students want to go to university or an IT, the CAO plays a significant role throughout the final year in school. The CAO can be straight forward but has a few quirks. If not understood properly, it can be brutal ending up with a poor course choice for the teen or no offer at all. It is worthwhile for parents to have a good understanding of how it works so that they can offer solid support to their teen as they go through the application process.


Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

How I can help

I have been through this process myself! I have also guided my own sons and teenage clients to choose their careers, showing them how to find an appropriate route for them. I know how difficult it can be if you have not been through it before. If you are uncertain about how the CAO and other career pathways operate and would like ongoing guidance throughout the year, I have an online course launching this month. I will advise you on the important dates or applications as they arise, including CAO and other applications such as HEAR/DARE along with SUSI grants and scholarships. And much more!

Learn more about course here or you can email me for more information.

Find out more About Me in my bio.