You have a CAO course offer, here’s what to do now

How to deal with the offer you received today, or an offer in future rounds

Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 12:25

Whether you are at home or sunning yourself on holiday, if you are happy to accept an offer from the CAO this morning, securing it is simplicity itself, provided you have access to the internet and can remember your personal password.

If you are having any difficulty accessing your offer online, don’t panic as there are up to 40,000 applicants trying to do the same thing. The CAO website may be congested for short periods today, so log on again after a few minutes. You have until Monday, August 25th at 5.15pm to accept the first round offer of a college place.

There are three possible scenarios when you log into your personal CAO file this morning:
You may be offered a single course on either your Level 8 honours degree, or your Level 7/6 ordinary degree/higher certificate list of course choices.
You may alternatively be offered a programme from both CAO course lists.
Finally, you may unfortunately not be offered any courses today, and may have to consider an alternative to a course within the CAO system this year.

Scenarios one and three are relatively straightforward. In scenario one, you have a week to accept your offer. If by next Monday you have not accepted it, the offer lapses and you cannot retrieve it. In scenario three, you have unfortunately not had any offer from the CAO in this round (see some of your options on page 11).

Where you receive two offers – on your Level 8 higher degree list and your Level 7/6 list – today from the CAO the position is a little more complex. You can only accept one course, so you have to choose between the two offers. It might seem obvious you would automatically accept the Level 8 course, but you may be wrong.

Many Level 7/6 courses have Level 8 equivalents which may be at the top of your Level 8 list, but you may not have the points for an offer. If you secure at least 60 per cent at the end of year two of your Level 7/6 programme, you can transfer to the beginning of year two of the equivalent course at Level 8.

If you find yourself with such an option this morning, I would strongly advise you to consider opting for the Level 7/6 course on offer to you, rather than accept a Level 8 course lower down on your list of preferences which may not be a course you have a genuine interest in studying.

And remember, whichever course you accept today, or over the next few days, will have no effect on your entitlement to an offer of a course higher up either of your two lists, if it becomes available to you in a later round.

I’m unfamiliar with the course I’ve been offered. Should I accept it?

If you are unfamiliar with the course or college you have been offered, do not accept it until you have fully explored it on the Qualifax website ( Look at the career progression the course offers and, if you can, visit the college before you accept the place. If you find the course may not sustain your interest for its duration, have the courage to let it pass because to accept it may lead to you dropping out or failing exams.

Thousands of students every year accept courses in both publicly-funded and private colleges, and either drop out or fail first year exams. If that happens next year, and then you re-apply for another course, you will be charged the full course fee (on average €4,000), which the State pays to the college on your behalf this year.

This applies even if the course is in a private college. The Government justifies this policy on private college fees as your parents are entitled to tax relief at 20 per cent on such fees. You will also have to pay the annual registration charge, which from 2015 will be €3,000. Therefore, accepting a course you later abandon is a very expensive mistake to make. Reflect carefully on what you have been offered today, before you decide what to do.

I’m happy with my CAO offer, but I would like to defer my acceptance for a year

If you want to defer your place, you must immediately contact the admissions office of the college offering the place, and request permission to postpone until next year, outlining your reason for seeking a deferral. You do not need to contact the CAO at this stage, as the college will do that on your behalf. The college will most likely allow you to defer.

However, you must remember to reapply to the CAO next year, listing just that one course in your application. If you list other courses as well as your deferred place, you are then back in open competition with next year’s applicants with the potential that, if the points for the course you have just been offered increase in 2015 beyond your points score, you will not be offered a place on the course.

I have the published points for the course I want, but have not received an offer due to random selection. What can I do now?

You may choose to accept the course you have been offered and hope the college will attempt in round two offers to clear all those on random selection. There is no way of knowing how many are on the same points as you, waiting to see if any places become available. Random selection is outlined in the CAO handbook, at

I got more points than I needed for my first preference course, but I didn’t get an offer today

Every course has minimum entry requirements, known as matriculation (they are available on If you have the minimum points published in today’s Irish Times, but did not get an offer from the CAO, you are probably lacking one of the basic entry requirements for that course.

You may have a D1 in a particular subject, where the course requires a C3. You can get on this course next year, by repeating the subject in the 2015 Leaving Cert and hopefully meeting the minimum requirement you lack. You may carry this year’s points forward and re-apply for the course in 2015. Remember, your result in next year’s Leaving Cert in the subject you repeat cannot be added to increase your points score, as you can only present the points from one sitting of the Leaving. Furthermore, there is no guarantee the points requirement for your preferred course will not either rise or fall next year.

I do not wish to accept the CAO offer I have just received

You need take no further action. Your name will remain on the waiting list for any course(s) higher up your order of preference than your current offer. But be aware, that there is no certainty you will receive a further offer.

Where can I get information on accommodation at or near the course I have been offered today?

Colleges have student accommodation services operated either by the college authorities or the students’ union, or by both in the case of large colleges. Many students who got an offer this morning are already on the way to the college to look for accommodation for the year as quality accommodation is snapped up very quickly.

Do I have to pay a fee when returning my CAO acceptance?

No payment is required when accepting a CAO offer. The college sends out bills for registration, etc separately. Fee enquiries should go to the fees office of the college, not the CAO. Students have to pay these registration charges, when registering, unless they are eligible for a grant, where the Higher Education Authority pays these charges to the college on your behalf.

I have been offered a place on a course, but can’t afford to accept it unless I qualify for a grant. When can I find out if I qualify?

The maintenance grant is the main source of financial help for students in full-time post-Leaving Cert courses (PLCs) and full-time higher education undergraduate courses offered through the CAO. Eligible students in most colleges in Ireland, as well as eligible Irish students in many colleges in Northern Ireland, the UK and other EU states, can be supported.

Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) now processes all applications on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills, and has been accepting applications from prospective students since May. If you have not yet applied for a grant you can do so immediately on, but it will be dealt with after those who applied earlier.

Some 90,000 grant applications are expected this year from eligible prospective students. For an online application you’ll need your CAO number, PPS numbers for you, your parent(s) or legal guardian(s), gross income details for 2013 for yourself and for your household’s relevant members. Determine if you are a student dependent (under 23), a mature student dependent (over 23) but living with parents on January 1st, 2014 or an independent mature student (over 23) who can prove independent living prior to October 1st, 2013. Susi’s online tracker system allows students to check their application’s progress. The early application date, the release of data by the CAO directly to Susi, and communication between Susi and the Department of Social Protection, is aimed to ensure that students receive grant payments in October or November of 2014.

Got a question about CAO offers?
Post your query online at and the guidance counsellors on our our free online Results Helpdesk will answer. 

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