"I feel like my future is in someone else's hands" - Anxious wait for CAO reapplicants 3 years ago

"I feel like my future is in someone else's hands" - Anxious wait for CAO reapplicants

"Higher grades do mean higher points."

There are concerns that students reapplying to the CAO this year will be affected by the grades awarded to the Leaving Certificate class of 2020. JOE spoke to a large cohort of people who feel they have been forgotten in the midst of this year's Leaving Cert crisis.


This year’s Sixth Years were, for the most part, awarded ‘calculated grades’, based on a combination of teacher-estimated grades and a national standardisation process. Those who chose to sit the physical exams, or whose circumstances precluded them from availing of this system, will take written papers in November as things currently stand.

“I’m really concerned about my place as I only have a few points to spare for my course.”

As a result of this new system, this year’s Leaving Certificate grades were the highest ever recorded, with an average rise of 4% across the board according to the Department of Education.

This is, of course, good news for a cohort of students who have endured a torrid year like no other in terms of state exams, with multiple changes, fixes and postponements before the calculated grades system finally came to fruition on Monday last.


“I would have been approximately 10 points clear of my first choice going off 2019 cao points, however now I fear I will miss out on my chosen course, the one I worked so very hard for, due to the grade inflation that is occurring this year.”

But for another group, this does leave them vulnerable and potentially in a position where they could miss out on their chosen college courses. Those reapplying to the CAO, having completed their Leaving Cert in previous years but not entering Third Level education in that year, are entering into a race for places with a few yards headstart given to their fellow applicants.

“Obviously, nobody had anticipated this pandemic and the uproar it would cause to all aspects of life and especially the leaving cert and CAO system, but I certainly don’t feel that the points I worked so ferociously to achieve should be devalued just because of the year I sat them in. We deserve equality.”

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris announced this week that an additional 500 college places, on top of 1,250 already announced this month, would be made available in an attempt to rectify this issue. In total, with other government initiatives taken into account, there will be approximately 5,000 more places available to those seeking to enter Third Level education this year.


“I’m reapplying through CAO using my leaving cert points from 2019. I took a year out and am now planning to go back. While I was expecting to get into the course before the pandemic now that there’s higher points than normal I’m very concerned that I won’t have the points required.”

Speaking to JOE, the Central Applications Office (CAO) said that a “number of factors” can impact the points for a particular course in any year, “including the number of places being offered by the higher education institution, the number of applicants for the course and the grades of applicants.” It is worth bearing in mind that a principle of supply and demand effectively applies here; if more people want a course, the points will likely be higher in order to allow a limited number to take their place at their chosen institution.

“I now fear I am being put in a position where I am at an extreme disadvantage of missing out on my course with this year’s outrageously inflated grades. This current situation has ultimately left me feeling very anxious, almost as if my leaving cert and the year I have spent saving to be almost worthless.We absolutely stand with this year’s LC2020, however something has to be done to make this a level playing field for all CAO applicants.”


In a statement issued to JOE this week, a spokesperson for the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science said that “The Department and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) continue to engage with the third level sector and the CAO on these matters. The Minister knows this is an incredibly anxious time for students but he also wants students to examine all options available to them including further or higher education and the earn and learn model of apprenticeship.”

“I reapplied to the CAO this year to study Medicine after sitting the HPAT in February ! I have enough points to have gotten in any other year and now I’m extremely worried that it won’t be an option for me . I worked myself to the bone to get 600 points in my Leaving Cert and now they don’t have the same value any more.”

In a number of stories sent to JOE by students anxiously awaiting their CAO offers with points from other years, a multitude of issues arose. Some deferred for a year due to illness, or to care for a family member who was not well. Others were unsure of what they wanted to study. Some had chosen to work. None could ever have seen this situation arising.

“I am one of those 20,000 who are reapplying through the cao and I am deeply distressed and anxious due to the point inflation. If I’m honest I think I can speak on behalf of everyone else that we do feel very hard done by. If we had known about this level of inflation or if we were warned many of our CAO choices would have looked very different. I can’t help but believe that several young people are going to be robbed of opportunities unfairly, including myself who only has 50 points to spare. Education is supposed to be fair and I never have agreed with disadvantaged people losing out but why should we?... If nothing is done about this I have no choice but to believe that this system has failed us miserably.”

This year’s CAO first round offers are due to be published at 2pm on Friday 11 September, with four subsequent rounds of offers stretching into at least the middle of October. With an acceptance by the Minister that points are likely to be higher this year, the government could be about to withstand a firestorm that they relatively avoided by removing the historical school data from the calculated grades model last week.


“I got 511 points which I was very happy with but I decided not to accept my CAO offer… I’m ready for college this year and know that I want to study Biological Sciences. In the last few years I would have had just enough points for any of the courses I have chosen however, I know come Friday I won’t even come close. I feel that I have been penalised for taking a year out and that I am at a significant disadvantage.”

The students who contacted JOE wanted one, understandable thing; fairness. They feel that they have been let down by the inflation of grades this year, that was relatively unavoidable on behalf of the Department of Education. That being said, with approximately 20,000 reapplying to the CAO this year, a large cohort of students could be left disappointed when these offers come out on Friday afternoon.

“It's a terrible fate, and I now feel like the Sixth Years felt. Like my future is in someone else's hands.”