What is the CAO?
The Central Applications Office (CAO) is the organisation that looks after processing applications to first-year undergraduate courses in third level institutions. You apply for the college courses you want to do via the CAO.
Do I have to apply via the CAO?
If you’re under the age of 23 and applying for an undergraduate course, you probably need to go through the CAO. If you’re not sure, feel free to check with our Admissions team.
What are the CAO deadlines?
- 20 January – Fill out your application online by this date to avail of a discounted application fee.
- 1 February – Deadline for CAO applications.
- 5 February – Change of Course Choices facility opens.
- 1 March – Change of Course Choices facility closes.
- Early May – Change of mind facility available online.
- 1 July – Change of mind facility closes.
- Mid-August – Leaving Cert results out. The first round of offers out. Offers continue weekly until mid-October or until all places are filled.
Top 10 Tips for Choosing Your Courses
1. Check the basic entry requirements.
- You can do this on the college’s prospectus, on the CAO website, or on Qualifax.
2. Dream big – aim for the top.
- This is really important. Put the course you really want to do first. Don’t be pessimistic and put down what you think you might get points-wise. Put down what you truly want - there’s still time to achieve your dream course!
3. Apply online.
- Apply directly on the CAO website. You’re less likely to make a mistake because the course codes are automatically identified. Plus, it’s cheaper!
4. Get help from some fresh eyes.
- Ask someone you trust to double check that things are filled in correctly. They’ll see things you may have missed.
5. Don’t leave it too late to start.
- Don’t wait till the last day to apply, get organised and don’t put yourself under any extra stress. Remember technology loves to crash on us when we really need it!
6. Complete all 20 course choices.
- Pick ten level 8 courses and ten level 6 and 7 courses - this gives you real flexibility when it comes to making your final decision next summer.
7. Include a few courses with lower points.
- If things don’t go quite so well, you still have fallback options. Hopefully, they can help you work towards getting onto the course and career path you really want!
8. Watch the videos.
- The CAO has created helpful videos with more information about applying and what you can expect over the next few months. Bookmark this link, it’ll come in handy!
9. Save all your application documents.
- Keep a record off all your application information and any correspondence with the CAO.
10. Change of mind.
- Remember it’s OK to change your mind. You can do this between the 5th May and 1st July as many times as you want. This is helpful because you might learn more about a course or college and want to apply there... or you might want to re-prioritise your options and change your application.
Bonus tip! Learn how to de-stress, whatever that means for you – treating yourself to a favourite snack, going for a walk, or making time for mindfulness. You’re making some big life decisions right now. Don’t forget to look after yourself!
Understanding the Points System
You’ll find the details of the minimum requirements needed for each course on the CAO website and on the college’s prospectus or website.
Need help doing the sums? The CAO have a handy online points calculator which works out the 2017 points and the pre-2017 points.