Win an iPad 2

h3>Win an iPad 2 in the ‘Imagine IT Sligo’ photo competition

With the February 1st CAO deadline approaching, we have launched an innovative social media campaign encouraging prospective students to get more familiar with the courses on offer at IT Sligo.

People who are considering their college options are being asked to submit photographs of themselves with the IT Sligo Prospectus, in the Imagine IT Sligo Photo Competition. The more wonderful or weird the location, the better!

The competition is an interactive approach to encourage prospective students to get more familiar with the 50-odd CAO options we offer.

‘Imagine IT Sligo’ Photo Competition Details:
?All photo entries must include the IT Sligo prospectus.
?Operated through our Facebook page, the first prize for the competition is an iPad 2 worth almost €500, and two runners up will receive an iPod Touch.
?The competition is for prospective new students to IT Sligo (minimum age for entry is 15 years); it is therefore not open to any current IT Sligo staff or students.
? After the photo submission closing date (12noon, February 2nd) a shortlist of the top photographs will be compiled.
?Shortlisted photos will then be displayed on the IT Sligo Facebook page for members of the public to view and to vote for their favourite.
? Full details and terms and conditions of the competition are available below and on our Facebook page.

How to get an IT Sligo Prospectus:
?While the IT Sligo Prospectus is available online here, a physical copy is required for the purpose of the competition.
?To get your hands on a copy of the IT Sligo Prospectus, just email and we will post one to you free of charge.

Students urged to apply as soon as possible for Student Grant Scheme

The Department of Education and Skills has announced details of the further and higher education Student Grant Scheme for the 2011/12 academic year.

Up until now, there were four grant schemes. In the first major step to overhaul the student grant system, the four schemes have been replaced by a single unified scheme this year. This will make it far easier for students to apply for a grant.

Almost 38,000 students, well over half of the expected number of applications, will be able to apply online for their grant this year.

The grantsonline facility has been rolled out to an extra 24 grant awarding bodies giving a total of 35 in all now using the system. The system is available through

This facility will be available to all students next year when a single grant awarding authority will become operational. The CDVEC was recently announced as that authority after a competitive process.

With the Leaving Certificate finished, the Department is urging students who may qualify to apply as quickly as possible for a grant and to ensure that forms are correctly completed

This will prevent log jams in the system or delays to decisions. Previously, those who wait until very late in the process, frequently only after a CAO offer, faced delayed decisions.

In addition, up to 60% of applications in some areas have to be returned because they are not fully completed, they are inaccurately completed or don’t have the necessary supporting documentation. Again, this contributes significantly to delays.

The grantsonline system will play an important role in reducing application completion errors because the system is intelligent to the information being input.

The Department confirmed that income limits to qualify for maintenance grants and payment of the student contribution remain unchanged for the new academic year.

However, students should be aware of a change introduced to the scheme under the last government’s Budget 2011 which reduces the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant from 24kms to 45km.

Details of the scheme together with the application form and guidance notes are available in the grants section of the .website.

www.waterford-today.ieWednesday, 6th July 2011

Education advisers call for PE as Leaving Cert exam

RUGBY, rock-climbing and dance could be the next big things in the Leaving Certificate.

They are among the activities that government education advisers have suggested should form part of a new secondary school subject in Physical Education (PE).

It would see students notching up valuable CAO points for college entry by showing off their sport, adventure, dance or gym skills.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is proposing a twin-track approach to giving PE a more important place on the second-level curriculum.

The PE push is aimed at improving fitness levels and reducing obesity among teenagers, while also using physical activity as way of teaching broader life skills.

Obesity is on the rise and more than one-in-five children are now regarded as overweight.

However, while the Government is generally supportive of the idea, there is no commitment as to when the proposed changes would be implemented.

The proposals are contained in two confidential papers, seen by the Irish Independent, up for discussion at an NCCA meeting this week before going out for wider consultation.

One document details how PE would be a full exam subject earning CAO points, while the other gives a general framework for PE for all Leaving Cert students.

Under the proposals, students taking PE as an exam subject would pick three physical activities from a selection covering adventure, athletics, aquatics, games, artistic and personal exercise. The array of suggested activities covers interests as varied as kayaking, water polo, synchronised swimming, trampolining, modern, jazz and hip-hop dancing, running, cricket, hurling and Pilates.

Students would also learn about every aspect of modern sports, including psychology, diet and nutrition, ethics, drugs, sponsorship and the media.

For exam purposes, students would earn up to half the marks for a personal performance and the rest for a written exam.

In their proposals for a general PE framework, the NCCA stresses the importance of physical fitness as part of a healthy lifestyle.


The recommended level of physical activity, of moderate intensity, for young people is at least 60 minutes a day,

The NCCA notes research showing that by the age of 15 almost nine out of 10 girls and seven out of 10 boys do not reach the recommended levels.

They say that school is a key setting and young people are a key target in strategies to promote health-enhancing levels of physical activity for all.

The NCCA recommends that PE be taught at senior cycle for a minimum of a double class a week, typically 70-80 minutes.

The syllabus could cover health benefits of physical activity, an understanding of sporting culture and personal and social responsibility.

While it would not be an exam subject, the NCCA suggest that students could compile a portfolio of evidence of what they have learned.

Current Department of Education guidelines recommend a minimum of 120 minutes per week for PE, but many schools don’t observe that.

– Katherine Donnelly

Irish Independent – February 01 2011

There’s great freedom with two-subject combinations


A figure of 51,985 applicants completed their application before the close of CAO’s discounted online date last Thursday (January 20), compared to 48,324 on the same day last year. The discount is working as an incentive.

Meanwhile, some queries came our way.

Q I have applied to DN500 BA Joint Honours programme in UCD, and I chose a two-subject combination, although I am not absolutely certain of my choice. Will there be an opportunity to change if I get a place?

A Yes, there should be. One of the great advantages of the DN500 entry route is its breadth of choice and its flexibility. The majority of places in the UCD Arts faculty, about 1,230 of them, are applied for and allocated through DN500.

If applicants know what two subjects they would like to study for their Joint Honours degree, they check the subject combinations on the subject preference grid on page 62 of CAO’s handbook.

If they are applying online, they select their DN500 subject choices from the menu provided. Paper applicants use the three-letter code for that combination in their CAO form. Only a single two-subject preference code, or choice may be used.

UCD says that it is not mandatory for students to choose their first-year subjects before they arrive. However, the college knows that many students like the certainty of ‘booking’ a place in particular subjects when they apply to CAO so they provide this opportunity.

Applicants may wait until registration to choose their subjects, in which case they simply enter DN500 on their CAO application. However, there is a chance that if they wait until registration, they may find their choice is more restricted, because some of the more popular subjects may be oversubscribed.

When students enter DN500 in UCD, they will complete their subject choices.

If they have chosen their degree subjects, they will find themselves pre-registered to a number of modules. If not, they will have a free choice, subject to permitted combinations and availability.

Either way, they will still have the opportunity to choose other subject areas to make up the full complement of modules for the first year of their degree programme.

Applicants who choose their DN500 subject combination at the time of application may change their subject choice when they register, also subject to permitted combinations and availability.

Q Will different points apply for different DN500 subject combinations?

A No. Unlike the way selection is made in Trinity’s TR001 (two-subject joint honours degree combinations), where cut-off points vary from subject to subject depending on levels of competition for each subject, no variations in points cut-offs obtain in DN500.

Applicants are asked to use the facility of specifying their subject choices to give an indication of demand, and the cut-off points for DN500 will be the same.

Apart from DN500, UCD also offers applicants the choice of applying to one of 10 specific, ‘denominated’ courses such as English with Drama, or Psychology, or History or Economics, each identifiable by a specific CAO code. In these cases, different levels of competition do apply. Last year, they ranged from 505 for (DN519) Psychology, to 355 for (DN512) English with Drama.

See UCD’s website for details.

Q I was asked to provide information about my social and economic background on the CAO application. I did not complete the survey. What relevance has it to my application?

A It is not mandatory to complete this survey, but students are encouraged to respond.

The purpose of gathering the information is to help the Higher Education Authority measure equality of access to higher education so that they may identify resource and other needs required to attract students of all backgrounds to higher education.

Irish Independent – January 24 2011

Disabilities should be highlighted

Tomorrow, Saturday January 22, Trinity College hosts its rescheduled open day from 10am to 2pm; its original open day scheduled for December 1 was cancelled because of the snow. An event guide, with a timetable of all talks, is available on the Trinity website,

Tomorrow also sees a series of HEAR and DARE advice clinics from 10am to 2pm in venues around the country: Cork (UCC‘s Kampus Kitchen); Dublin (the NCI, IFSC, Dublin 1); Donegal (Villa Rose Hotel, Ballybofey); Galway (the Arts Millennium Building in NUI Galway), Clanard Court Hotel, Athy, Co Kildare; Limerick (UL); Athlone (Athlone Institute of Technology) and finally in the Glencarn Hotel, Castleblaney, Co Monaghan. All details are available on

Q I am a little confused as to whether I should apply through DARE (the Disability Access Route to Education) or just tick the box relating to disability on the CAO application form.

A You should begin by ticking the box, or clicking the button on the online application.

For many years now, CAO has provided the opportunity for applicants to bring to the attention of higher education institutes any relevant difficulty or disability by ticking the appropriate box provided on the CAO application form.

Applicants are not obliged to disclose such details, but CAO encourages them to provide this information, and emphasises that the information will not adversely affect an application in any way.

As the CAO handbook explains, this allows HEIs to consider, in consultation with you, any specific support needs you may have in a higher education institution. If you do not wish to disclose your disability and/or specific learning difficulty on the application form, you may do so at any time on entering a Higher Education Institution and reasonable accommodation will be made at that stage if possible.

All students with a disability, irrespective of whether they come through DARE or not, are offered a variety of academic, personal and social supports while studying at third level. Hundreds of students with a disability are studying in all faculties in universities and other colleges.

DARE is a more recent development of the disability entry routes. Each college or university taking part in the DARE scheme has allocated a limited number of places on a reduced-points basis for students entering through DARE.

If you are applying for the DARE scheme, as a first step you must tick the box on the CAO paper form or click the button online. You will then be required to fill out the various supplementary information forms (SIFs), as directed. Evidence is required confirming that your disability has had a significant impact on your educational performance, and you must also meet the minimum entry and subject requirements of the colleges or universities to which you are applying, and compete for one of the quota places based on your Leaving Certificateresults.

Last year, 1,650 offers were made to the DARE and HEAR schemes, out of 1,900 eligible applicants in HEAR and 931 eligible applicants in DARE. Many of those who were eligible on grounds of disability did better than expected in their Leaving Certificate and didn’t need the points reduction, while others did not meet the minimum entry requirements for the courses they chose.

Anne Heelan, executive director of Association for Higher Education Access and Disability reminds applicants: “Not all colleges are part of DARE, especially the Institutes of Technology, yet many of these give consideration to students with disabilities in their entry process. Students should contact the college disability or access officer directly and ask about supports.”

Even if students fail to get a place through the DARE quota on reduced points, the criteria for supports in college are much broader. So students should still tick the box, or click the online button to alert the college to their application.

Irish Independent – January 21 2011

Consider job opportunities when selecting course to study



COLLEGE CHOICE: IF YOU have identified your CAO options, you will want to know about the job prospects for these courses.

The most useful resource is the Careers Portal website at This site provides the most up-to-date information on what is happening in the Irish labour market today.

By exploring this site, you can inform yourself about any job or occupational area which will be available to you on graduation. College students nearing graduation will also find the site useful given the volatility of today’s labour market.

Once you enter your appropriate search word, reflecting your current area of interest, you will immediately have access to:

* The key facts about this sector/ occupation;

* Are there job shortages in this area now, or will there be in the near future?

* What are the key skills required?

* What are the key interests required to be happy in this occupation?

* What are the day-to-day tasks and activities undertaken in this occupation?

* What courses are related to this occupation?

 What vacancies are being advertised today for people in this sector/occupation?

You can also read career interviews and watch videos of workers talking about what they do on a daily basis and outlining the skills required for the job. They will also tell you about the qualifications required to secure the job they do.

As an example of how this might work, let’s assume you highlighted a number of areas in the “Computers and Software” sector.

You will be presented with three industry sectors within “Computers and Software”. Having looked at the overview of the sector and examined the page in detail, you will see that “Computer Applications Programmer” is coming up under the skills shortages section.

Going directly into the details of the “Computer Applications Programmer”, you will find a job description, typical tasks undertaken, links to more detailed information, related courses and links to current job vacancies for this occupation.

There are also video profiles of workers in this sector and the most up-to-date labour market statistics are graphically displayed.

You can repeat this procedure for any sector or occupation you are considering, either now or closer to graduation.

By going through this exploration process on the careers portal website, whether you are a school leaver or an adult who has decided to return to education to improve employment prospects, you will be able to clearly match up the courses you are considering with the current labour market trends for graduates in your chosen area.

Brian Mooney is a former president of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors. 

The Irish Times – Friday, January 14, 2011

Opportunities for mature students

Although most of the focus during the college application period is on school leavers, significant numbers of college applicants each year are non-standard applicants, including mature applicants, ie applicants over 23 years of age.

Last year’s (2010) CAO application figures showed that 14,696 of a total of about 77,628 applicants were “mature”; this figure represented just under 19% of all applicants. Quotas of places are held in many courses for applicants of mature years.

Prospective mature applicants can get a general overview of their opportunities for example, on the Qualifax website,, where they will find a number of sites devoted to mature entry.

All higher education institutions (HEIs) are anxious to help mature students make informed decisions, and they have many support services in place.

College websites are a most sophisticated source of information for all applicants, and lists of websites addresses of HEIs can be quickly accessed directly or through CAO’s website, Many college websites have dedicated sections for mature applicants, geared to answer their specific questions. CAO’s handbook, also available online, contains much information for mature applicants, including details of how they should apply.

As mature applicants to nursing degrees will know, there are separate CAO codes for standard and mature applicants to all nursing degree programmes.

It is always advisable for any college applicant to visit a campus and talk to college staff, particularly the mature student officer.

Q Must mature students meet the same points requirements as school leavers?

A No. Mature applicants will usually be considered on the basis of other criteria, although some may use their Leaving results.

All college courses attract applications from mature applicants and there is no uniform selection mechanism. There are many opinions on the different selection mechanisms that are appropriate and practical.

Trinity College, for example, requires some mature applicants to pass some kinds of test. Applicants to music courses must sit the same written test as all applicants to music; mature applicants to English courses are asked to write an essay, while those applying to psychology are required to sit an aptitude test. Mature applicants to nursing in any college must also sit tests.

Even within different HEIs, different faculties will adopt different approaches to mature students’ selection procedures. UCD and UCC introduced a pilot scheme a couple of years ago whereby mature applicants to most Arts and Social Science degree programmes take an aptitude test called the Mature Students Admissions Pathway (MSAP). NUI Galway has also decided to use the same MSAP test for applicants to courses in its College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies.

So as well as applying to CAO, prospective mature applicants to those courses in those three universities must register for the MSAP admissions test for a fee of €65 by February 1. Further details may be obtained on

Applicants who achieve over 60% in the UCD Adult Education Course ‘Access to Arts and Human Sciences’ are not required to sit the MSAP.

Information session: Today, Trinity College Dublin will hold a dedicated information session for Mature Student applicants from 4.30pm to 7.30pm in the Arts Building in Trinity. A series of talks will run simultaneously every half hour throughout the session and these will cover all faculties. The schedule is available on apply/

Irish Independent – January 13 2011

Information evening for mature learners at IT Sligo

An information evening for adults who are interested in returning to education or taking up a course at third level for the first time will be held in IT Sligo on Monday January 17th at 7pm.

The information evening will include presentations from the IT Sligo Access Officer and School Liaison Officer on the supports available for mature learners entering third level education and the range of courses available at IT Sligo.

There will also be a questions and answers session and individual questions will be taken

IT Sligo Access Officer Catherine McNelis is encouraging anyone who is aged over 23 and interested in exploring their options to attend the information evening: “A mature student is classified as anyone who is aged over 23 on January 1st of this year. Anyone who is that age or older is eligible to return to education as a mature student.


“The CAO deadline on February 1st is fast approaching and now is the perfect time for people to investigate all the options open to them. This meeting will provide an opportunity for anyone interested taking up a course in September to find out what supports are available to them and what steps they now need to take to get applying.”


“While mature students must apply through the normal CAO process, their experience and previous work experience will be taken into consideration when it comes to gaining entry and people should realise that their life experience will stand to them considerably  should they choose to return to education.”


IT Sligo Schools Liaison Officer Bernadette Farrell will speak about the course options available to mature learners at the information evening; “Every first year course offered at IT Sligo is open to mature students and we have a wide range of courses across the disciplines that are targeted at getting people into the workplace, so I would encourage anyone interested in taking up a course to check out their options in our prospectus in advance of the meeting. The prospectus is available from IT Sligo and also on our website 

“Up to 20 per cent of the places in our first year courses are available for mature students and this year one in six of our first year students are mature students, so you will not be alone and IT Sligo has great support systems in place to help mature students settle into college life,” she said.

The information evening will be held in Room A004 beside the Main Reception in IT Sligo from 7pm on Monday 17th. It is free and everyone is welcome to attend.




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