The CAO is the main pathway to third level education in Ireland but there are other equally viable ways. Apprenticeships and FET courses are also a great option if your son or daughter is not academic or they are useful as a backup plan to the CAO.

Apprenticeships are very useful for those who prefer to learn in a more practical way and the apprentice can still achieve Honours Degree status or higher this way. The apprentice also earns while they learn and get direct work experience in the sector they choose.

FET’s provide recognised qualifications at a lower level for those school leavers who are not academic or who may not be ready for the full college experience. They get a taster for the area of choosing and they can use their FET results to transition to a university course in the same subject area.

The new Joint Programme between the College of Further Education and some universities. This programme will allow students to start their degree in their local CFE and complete the final two years in a University that is partnered with the CFE.

Employment for a few years is also a valid option for many and may allow the teenager to develop a bit more before taking on the rigours of full-time, self-guided higher or further education.

All options are worth considering even if the student is academic in nature. They provide a useful back up plan in case the Leaving cert does not go according to plan.