The cost of a third level education is considerable. Parents are often torn between wanting to do the best for their child and keeping a firm rein on the family and household finances.

Planning a realistic budget, foresight, common sense and seeking the counsel of trusted friends or relations that have been through ‘the college experience’ are invaluable at this stage.

Colleges charge registration fees which all students must pay. It is also known as a student contribution and it covers student services and examinations. The amount of the contribution varies from one institution to another. The maximum rate of the student contribution for the academic year 2013-2014 was €2,500. In Budget 2013 it was announced that the student contribution for 2014-2015 will be €2,750, increasing to €3,000 for 2015-16.

Private colleges charge the larger amount of full tuition fees. For exact figures check out college websites. If your son or daughter is likely to be living away from home, on-campus accommodation, student villages or halls of residence are often the choice for 1st year students, offering a comfortable bridge between home and the independence of living in a flat or apartment.

Once fees and accommodation are paid for, you will then need to budget for weekly living expenses, academic costs of books, laptop, course related travel & field trips, Erasmus year or internship abroad. Parents that have been through the process suggest it’s a good idea to expect a few unexpected expenses along the way. Again talking through the finances as you judge appropriate for your family is helpful in working out a realistic budget.

Q. When will you receive a CAO offer?

A. Monday August 22nd 2016

Q. How do I view my exam scripts?

A. Leaving Cert students who wish to view their exam scripts must return the application form to their school by Tuesday, August 19th 2014 (more information below).

Q. How do you receive a CAO offer?

A. Applicants may view their CAO offers online at www.cao.ie from 6am. CAO will also send each applicant their offer to arrive by post. Paper offer notices will be posted to arrive no later than Tuesday, August 19th 2014. CAO will also write to those who did not receive any offer at this time.

Q. How do you accept a CAO offer?

A. All offers of places will be sent by post. A “Reply Date” will be printed on “Offer Notices”. Offers will also be available online and you may record your acceptance online. If you wish to accept you must do so by 5.15 pm on the “Reply Date” printed on the “Offer Notice”.

Q. How many offers can you receive together?

A. A student may receive two offers at the one time if they have secured the requisite number of points and satisfy all entry requirements. One offer is for a place on a Level 8 Honours Degree course, and one offer for a place on a Level 6 Higher Certificate Course or a Level 7 Ordinary Degree course.

Q. How many offers can you accept at any one time?

A. t is only possible to accept one offer at this time. This offer could be for a place on either a Level 8 or a Level 6/ Level 7 course.

Q. What is deferred entry and how do you defer your place?

A. If you receive an offer of a place and wish to defer taking up the place for one year, it is advised that you check with the Admissions Office of the Higher Education Institutions directly regarding the possibility of deferring and the process involved. Please consult the CAO handbook for further details on this process.

Q. How do you order a paper recheck?

A. Appeal applications must be with the State Examinations Commission by Wednesday September 3rd2014. The appeal fee is €40.00 per subject in the Leaving Certificate. Appeal fees must be paid in advance and will be refunded if your result is upgraded. The SEC will provide each school with a personalised appeal application form whereby you indicate the subject you wish to have rechecked. For more information on this process seewww.examinations.ie or contact the SEC on(090) 6442744.

Q. How and when do you view your leaving Certificate Papers?

A. When you receive your results your school will also have a personalised application form provided by the SEC which will show your examination details including your subjects. If you would like to view a particular script(s) you mark the form accordingly. You must return the form to the school by Tuesday August 19th. Three viewing sessions will take place as thereafter.

If papers are rechecked and your grade increases will you then be entitled to a late offer? The State Examinations Commission informs the CAO of all changes of results and applicants who are eligible for an offer will receive an offer.

Q. What are Vacant Places and how do you apply for them?

A. Where there are available or vacant places the HEI’s will advertise these on the CAO website. Persons who have not applied may make an available place / vacant place application online upon payment of a fee of €45. Persons who have already applied may apply for a vacant place free of charge. Applicants must meet the normal minimum entry requirements for the course in question. Acceptance of an offer of a vacant place automatically cancels and supersedes any previous offer and acceptance.

If you fail Maths, English or Irish can you receive an offer for your course? It is possible to receive an offer for a number of courses if you fail Maths, English or Irish. It is important to check the minimum subject requirements of each college or HEI carefully. Also please note that other options include Further Education Courses and repeating the failed subject the following year.

Some colleges also offer ‘Second Chance Maths’ Exams. Please see the individual college websites for details.