What you need to know about the CAO

It’s that time of year again when 6th year students are deciding upon their college options. The CAO officially opened for online applications on November 5th 2015.

Start filling out your CAO as soon as you think you’re ready, don’t rush into it but don’t leave it until the last minute. It’s easier (cheaper) and quicker to fill out your application online on the CAO website. It would be wise to register early and get the discounted online rate of €25 before January 20th @ 5.15pm. Once you’ve registered you can go back later and add or change courses until the first closing deadline; February 1st. After this date any changes made incur a fee.

Dates for your diary

January 20th at 5:15pm
– Closing date for early bird price €25 CAO application (it is €40 after this date).
– Closing date for early bird HPAT-Ireland price €120 (it is €190 after this date).

February 1st at 5:15pm
– Closing date for €40 CAO application.
– Late registrations for HPAT-Ireland are accepted costing €190. The HPAT-Ireland test will talk place nationwide on February 27th 2016.

Restricted Courses – make sure you apply in round one

For anyone who’s interested in restricted courses i.e. courses that require a portfolio, interview or aptitude test you need to make sure that your choice is listed before February 1st – it may be too late after that date for restricted courses.

Don’t panic, once you’ve register you have until March 1st @ 5.15pm to submit your final round 1 application. Late applications are accepted up to and including May 1st – but try not to leave it this late if you can – extra fees apply. You should expect to receive a paper copy of your statement of applications during the last week in May.

After the Leaving Cert you have until July 1st to change your CAO if you’re really unsure of a course. Always consult your career guidance counsellor before making changes like this at such a late stage. CAO round offers will be made available at 6:00 am on the 22nd of August 2016. 

Deciding what to apply for:

* Look at lots of college brochures and get an idea of what courses interest you. If your school doesn’t have prospectuses ask them to order some or phone the college yourself and ask to be sent one.
* Make sure to check the basic entry requirements for the courses you’re interested in. This info will be in the prospectus. For example, many Irish universities require that you have minimum grades in Irish and English as well as the necessary points.
* Consider what you want to study AND where you’ll be happy living. If you want a taste of city life then check out Dublin, Belfast, Galway, Limerick, Cork, Derry and UK universities. If you’re more comfortable living somewhere smaller look at what’s on offer in places like the University of Ulster at Coleraine or Sligo I.T.
* Once you have an idea of what you’re interested in, call the colleges and ask if there’s someone you can talk to about the courses on offer.
* If possible, visit the universities or colleges you plan to apply for. Most universities have open days, which give you an opportunity to visit the college. There is usually a tour of the facilities and information about everything the university has to offer.
* You can usually download the university or college prospectus from their website.

Useful websites:


Careers Portal

Top Tips!

* When filling in your CAO make sure to put the course you really want to do as first choice. NOT what you think you’ll have the results to study!
* Fill out the CAO form in plenty of time. Don’t forget there is a ‘change of mind’ form that you can use if you decide you want to apply for different courses.
* Practice filling in the CAO. Make a photocopy of each one and get a teacher or family member to check that everything is filled in properly before you post them off. Or apply online and get someone to look over the application before you finalise it.
* The more research you do, the more confident you’ll feel when you finally get to that chosen college!
* Finally, this is important so swallow your pride or shyness and ask the career guidance teacher to help you. Spend time researching the best options and deciding what you really want to do!