Monday, August 22, 2011

CAO Points

Today is the day that thousands of students receive their first round offers for places in third-level courses. News reports are suggesting that subject areas such as Science, Technology, and Agriculture have higher points than last year, while Arts subjects are lower. This is an indication that students are following the jobs - in most cases a wise choice.

Image source: Simonds High School.
In 1978 I too got an offer of a place in Trinity to study Science, under the old system I got the required 17 points. The system was 5 points for an A, 4 for a B, 3 for a C, and 2 for a D in honours subjects. At lower level there were 2 points for an A, and 1 for a B. My five Cs on honours papers (5 x 3 pts) and an A in pass Maths got me the 17 points. It's harder to calculate what points I would have achieved today since the way they are calculated is very different from 1978. At the upper end, five C1s is worth 350 points, and an A1 in lower level is worth 60 points - giving a total of 410 points. At the lower end, five C3s is worth 300 points while an A2 in lower level is worth 50 points - giving a total of 350 points. So my points total would have been between 350 and 410 points.

So - where would this have got me today? Certainly not Science in Trinity which made offers today at 475 points, or UCD where the offer of a place was at 455 points. I would have been a long way short of the target. At the top of my range, 410 points would get me Computer Science in both Trinity and UCD. As I am currently employed as a Lecturer in Computing it's nice to know that I could still make the grade. Interestingly - 350 points would have got me into every course in NCI!

Many students will be delighted with their offers today - they will have been offered their first preference. Congrats to all who have got what they wanted. Others will have been offered second or lower preferences, and may be a little disappointed. Hopefully most will have chosen their preferences carefully. Unfortunately, many students will accept offers of places today and drop out of College within a few months. Others will get places on a course that they are going to fail, or struggle to get through. The vast majority will work out fine, but almost every course has drop-outs and fails. In many cases dropping out of a course that does not suit may be the best thing to do - better to find out early. Others may find their course too difficult and end up failing their exams. All that seems so far away now, but take Science in Trinity for example: there are students on 475 plus points who will have accepted a place today, but who will fail first year, or drop out before Christmas.

For most students - today is an exciting day. I well remember going into the Post Office in Carnew to get my offer letter, and sitting in the car to open the letter. That was the first time I really realized that "I'm going to University!", and that my life was about to change.

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