CAO applicants, your essential checklist for going to college

CAO applicants, your essential checklist for going to college

According to the latest cost of living survey carried out by the Technological University of Dublin, it costs €13,827 a year for a student to live away from home.

Course research

Research the courses that you think you are interested in. First of all consider if they suit your personality and interests? If so, it’s time to look more closely at the handbook and ask the following questions.

What QQI Level is the course?

Is there a progression route to a higher level?

What are the subject requirements and do I meet them?

What points might be needed for this course?

This number rises and falls every year so don’t reject a course even if you don’t think you could reach last year’s points. You never know.

What subjects are taught throughout the whole course?

Look at every year to avoid nasty surprises. Pay particular attention to subjects like maths and decide if you are able for it.

Find out what is the balance between academic and practical work?

Check out the college — is it big and anonymous or is it small and more personal? Will the class be in the hundreds or small, like a family?

What societies and supports are available should a student get into social, personal or academic difficulty?

What type of assessment is there?

Will it be continuous or just end of semester exams?

Go to open days and trust your gut instinct.

What kind of career?

Many colleges provide information on what their graduates did after leaving college. It is a good question to ask at an open day.

Also, the Careers Portal website has links in the careers section with industry related facts including the work involved, pay, labour market updates and employment opportunities both in Ireland and abroad.

Each profession has a required skill set, and this could be a key in deciding if it’s the area for you.

Testing the water

One way of testing the waters is to apply for a Post Leaving Cert course (PLC) which ranges from one to two years offering Level 5 and 6 qualifications. In this time you will definitely know if a career area is right for you. Before applying, check that there is a progression route from this course to a higher QQI level at I.T./university level where you can take it further.


If eligible, apply for a SUSI grant as soon as you have your CAO number. There are two types, one for maintenance and one that covers the €3,000 student contribution charge. This grant is means tested and applies to approved courses.

Scholarships are another way to secure funding for college. The careers portal website ( lists available scholarships in Ireland.

It should also be noted that colleges have a hardship fund for enrolled students who are in need of financial assistance.


Before investing in a laptop, check with the college offering your chosen course to see if there are any specific requirements. Also, always back up your work on the cloud or a USB.

Cost of living

According to the latest cost of living survey carried out by the Technological University of Dublin, it costs €13,827 a year for a student to live away from home. That’s significantly up from the 2019-2020 figure of €12,171. The survey was specific to living in Dublin where rent is at €5,265 p.a. The cost of living away from home elsewhere in the country is usually less due to lower rents.

The survey also found that students living at home spend about €6,636 per annum. Interestingly both groups spend just under €1,000 a year on travel. For those with no access to public transport this cost could be in the thousands to pay for a car, insurance, fuel and parking.

For some it is money that decides whether a student stays at home or commutes, but for others it comes down to a lack of available accommodation as the housing crisis deepens in this country.

Either way, living at home should not be a reason to miss out on the non-academic aspects of the college experience.

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