Life After The LC

CAO Change of Mind 2020: Knowledge is power for students making final course choices

By Laurie O'Flynn

With the CAO Change of Mind deadline approaching, thousands of students will be finalising their CAO applications online.

As students are not sitting Leaving Cert exams, they can “guesstimate” their grades based on past exam performance.

For those who know exactly what they want, this should be a straightforward procedure. However, for students who are unsure, things could be tricky this year as they may not have had access to their guidance counsellor due to the ban on teachers engaging with students.

“According to the finding of our most recent survey of guidance counselling practice in 650 second level schools and colleges of further education (IGC, 2020), 64 schools out of the 301 respondent schools (32%) reported that guidance counsellors are carrying out non-guidance counselling classroom teaching.


“Overall, guidance counsellors report spending 6.84 hours weekly on time-tabled classroom teaching. Subject teaching represents 1.73 hours; Wellbeing 1.49 hours; SPHE 1.24 hours; and Other 1.08 hours. This is a disastrous situation which leads to role conflict as it is not ideal to act as advocate and assessor of your students,” explains President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, Beatrice Dooley.

“Following the DES guidelines on this, guidance counsellors should not engage with students whilst the calculation of grades is underway. This begs the question, where can students in need of support seek it during that period?” she adds.

Beatrice Dooley, President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, advises students to research and make informed choices about college courses.

According to the Department of Education website, from May 11th "teachers and students may not discuss the student’s achievement in the subject over the past two years. Nor can they discuss the student’s ranking in a class, or their estimated mark or the level at which an estimated mark is to be provided in a subject. In terms of the school’s role in supporting the wellbeing of Leaving Certificate students, the role of the Student Support Team as set out in the guidance issued recently to schools, should remain available until the end of the school term."


Any students who have found themselves in need of career guidance but without access can go to the careersportal website ( where they can use the online tool to match their area of interest with careers and courses.

As many career guidance counsellors will point out, in most cases this is just the first step in what will be a varied career path so it is important to choose something you like, something that you will stick with and work at. Also, in today’s world, training, upskilling and further education are regular features in the workplace. You don’t need to know it all when you leave college.

To get started on the higher education path, President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, Beatrice Dooley, advises students to use this time and the Change of Mind facility to get the most out of their CAO lists.

Take time to research courses, make informed choices

Most students use the Change of Mind facility as it is normal to change your mind as you discover new information about courses and colleges, and as your performance in your different subjects changes in the course of a school year.


The important thing is to make informed choices so do your research now while you have the time and headspace to devote to it.

Know how to use the change of mind facility

Subject to the exceptions and restrictions mentioned on the CAO website, you may change course choices (without fee) as often as you wish, up to 17:15 on the 1st July. Remember if you submit a Change of Mind it cancels and supersedes all the previous course choices in any category in which changes are made. However, choices in the two categories (Level 8 and Level 7/6) are considered to be completely separate from each other for this purpose e.g. a change of Level 8 course choices will not affect Level 7/6 choices.

Review your course choices based on previous exam results

Your should review your course choices based on previous exam results, even if you are happy with your current application.

Given that you will not be sitting a Leaving Certificate examination, you have the opportunity now to reassess your course choices in light of how exams have gone for you to date.

You should be able to largely predict what your results will be based on your past experience.

Knowledge is power, so empower yourself and make any necessary amendments to your CAO choices factoring in alternate routes to your dream career.

The free Change of Mind facility opened on the 5th of May and closes on the 1st of July – so there is plenty of time to reflect on your choices.

Even if you currently are happy with your application, it is a good idea to review your course choices before this option closes July 1st. The CAO application trends for 2019 were available from early March which can give an indication of the likelihood of points going up or down for different courses.

For the first time ever students will be able to “guesstimate” their grades based on past exam performance. This will afford students greater security when choosing courses and equip them with the requisite information to make changes earlier than usual.

Avoid paralysis by analysis, find the right fit is for you

Students definitely have more time to reflect, and like all things balance is key to this. Avoid over thinking and over analysing information, you do not want a case of paralysis by analysis.

Everyone you talk to will have advice and an opinion about what you should do. Big picture, what feels right for you? Nobody can climb inside your head and think for you or climb inside your skin and feel for you.

What course do you see yourself completing? Enjoying? You will be the person sitting in lectures and completing course work so make sure you pick the right fit for you for the right reasons.