There are tough decisions to be made in the coming weeks with the deadline for all CAO applications fast approaching. All of those hoping to secure a place in third level this coming September 2011 must submit the appropiate forms to the Central Statistic

In light of the looming deadline, some of the country's most popular third level instiutes have been holding open days and spearheading other events and competitions in the hope of enticing prospective students with the range of courses, benefits and extra curricular activities on offer.

For the prospective students themselves, particulalry those fresh from secondary level, the open day offers the perfect opportunity to seek some constructive guidance admist the uncertainty and confusion as the economy continues to falter and third level fees threaten to increase further.

As more and more people turn to third level education as a temporary answer to the unsettling job market, the CAO office are expecting to be hit with an onslaught of applications.

NUI GALWAY will be hoping to impress prospective students with the 100 student societies and 40 sports clubs on offer at the Galway City campus in the run up to their open day on April 2nd 2011. As a further incentive for future third level students, the University are asking people to submit a five minute video under the title 'home sweet home' with a state-of-the art filp camera up for grabs for the best entry. In the short video students are asked to document what it is they will miss most about leaving home and for students who do not plan to leave home, they are asked to describe what it will be like to leave home one day.

The University's counterparts, NUI Maynooth are also doing their bit to smooth the transition from secondary level to third level with a specialised one-day intenisve course for Leaving Certificate students. The course will be delivered by the faculty of the English department of NUI Maynooth. The cost is €25 per student and includes a packed lunch.

Curtailed by adverse weather conditions in December, both DIT and DCU held their open days this month with impressive crowds turning out for each. Academic staff and current students were on hand to talk to prospective students through their options.

Staff at DIT were pleasantly suprised at the unprecendented turnout as 5,000 visitors graced the Aungier Street campus. Special sessions on careers, preparing portfolios and for auditions and a 'maths surgery' were extremely popular. Admissions officer Frank Costello said of the unprecedented turn out; "Unfortunately demand for copies of the prospectus far exceeded the available supply, but we would like to encourage students and guidance counsellors to go to the website for information on each of our programmes." Interested parties are also encouraged to use DIT CourseWise, available at www.dit.ie/coursewise to browse programmes and to see the detail of the modules in each programme

Recently crowned University of the Year 2010 by the Sunday Times, a strong gathering also thronged to the campus on the North side of Dublin for the DCU open day on 5th January. Described by the Times as "young, gifted and on track", current students and staff were offering advice and encouragement to students as they mulled over the fifty honours degree courses on offer at DCU. Visitors were also provided with information on the vast arary of socities in operation at the University and of course the merits of the college social life, another important aspect of student life. An open evening was also held on January 11th for students and parents to provide them with further insight before sitting down to complete the CAO forms.

As suggestions are thrown at young people as to what are the most promising sectors in the current Irish economy and what areas should be avoided, DCU president Brian MacGrath encouraged students to follow their passsion, and make their choices on the basis of what interests them.

"Choose what interests you and what you feel passionate about and let the future worry about itself", was the general message from the University head when he appeared on the Ryan Tubridy talk show earlier this month.

CAO applications can be filled out online and more information on the points system and other elements of the third level applications process can be found at www.cao.ie.