Ask Brian: How can I help my daughter register for the right CAO course?

It’s worth registering now, though there is plenty of time to select college courses

Question: My daughter is taking the Leaving Cert in June and recently received a CAO handbook from her school. She’s our eldest so this is the first time I have considered any of this in 20 years. Have you any advice for parents to ensure that their children end up on the right course in college?

Answer: The first difference in the CAO application process that you will become aware of is that your daughter may not be posting anything at all: most of the process is online nowadays.

Registration for those who wish to apply for an undergraduate place in an Irish third-level institution for 2018 entry is now open.

It's worth registering immediately to get this step out of the way. The process is easy: go to and view the demonstration application form.


There are also a series of video guides on the website to assist applicants, along with a guide for parents and guardians.

At this stage, all the CAO requires is basic personal details along with a credit card payment of €30. This will secure your daughter a unique CAO number. She will be able to use this to access her application, make course selections or change them, up to the closing date for course choices on July 1st next.

Beyond that, if she is a suitable candidate to be considered under schemes for students with disabilities (known as the Dare scheme) or from disadvantaged backgrounds (Hear scheme), she should answer “yes” to question one and begin the process of completing the online supplementary information form.

Student grant

If your daughter is considering applying for a student grant through Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi), she should tick the box on online application that authorises the office to transmit relevant data to Susi which will speed up your grant application. There is a ready reckoner on the Susi homepage that will help you calculate whether your family income falls within the eligibility limits.

Regarding the most important part of the CAO application process, the identification of a list of courses at both level eight and level six/seven in order of her preference, your daughter need not be overly concerned about that at this stage. We are a long way from the 1st July deadline for completion of this process.

There are in her CAO handbook a small number of courses on the right hand side of individual colleges course lists which are “restricted”. This means that there is an assessment process over and above the Leaving Cert grades she will achieve next August.

Courses in this category include, art, drama, music, medicine (Hpat test), design, etc. If she is even mildly interested in any course listed as restricted, I would advise her to list it on her online application record by the closing date of February 1st next.

She can finalise her course choices following the completion of her Leaving Cert in June, but cannot add a restricted programme at that stage – though she can remove any she may have listed in January.