Brian Mooney: Still hoping for college? Check ‘Available Places’

CAO ‘Available Places’, private colleges, study abroad and FE colleges are some options

CAO ‘Available Places

Yesterday, the CAO released the full list of “Available Places” courses, where colleges still have places on offer after they have exhausted their list of suitably qualified applicants who have met the minimum entry requirements.

Anyone who has not applied may make an application to the CAO on payment of €40.

A college applicant who has a current CAO application, whether they have been offered or accepted a place since Monday, may apply for an available place online without paying a further fee. You must meet the normal minimum-entry requirements for the course.


The points published by the CAO should not be taken as an indication of the points required for entry into an available place. Applications that arrive in the CAO before 11am on Monday, August 29th, will be processed and considered for offers on Thursday, September 1st, as part of the second round of offers.

To apply for a place on the list, log on to the CAO website,, click on the My Application tab and click on Add Level 8 Available Place Course or Add Level 7/6 Available Place Course as appropriate and follow the instructions.

Available place course codes may only be inserted higher in your list of preferences than any offer which you have received to date.

If you still wish to be considered for any existing courses, you must insert all available place courses below those you wish to retain. If you have already applied to CAO this year, then an Available Places application is not separate to your existing application, you are inserting courses into your existing list of course choices, and you may not re-order your original course choices.

You may only have a total of 10 course choices in any course list (level eight and level seven/six). If you wish to add an available place course to a list already containing 10 entries, the course code at the bottom of the list (ie, preference 10) will be deleted.

Mature applicants over 23 years of age must contact the appropriate college before completing an application.

Remember to follow the fundamental rule of the CAO application system – place your course choices in genuine order of preference.

If you put an available place course as your first preference and you get an offer on this course, then you will not be offered any course lower in your order of preference. Acceptance of an offer of an available place automatically cancels and supersedes any previous offer(s) and acceptance(s).

Further Education college

Further education colleges still have some excellent options on offer for Leaving Cert students. All FE colleges are still taking enrolments and students can go on to the college website of their choice and apply online.

Classes start in early- to mid-September, so there is still plenty of time to source a suitable course. Some colleges are holding open days over the coming week, so check out your local college’s website for details.

Assessment and certification for FE courses is based on a combination of work during the year and exams at the end of the year. The vast majority of FE courses offer progression opportunities back into a CAO course through the reserved places system.

Private colleges

The private education sector has a range of courses still available to students, either through the “Vacant Places” section on the CAO website or by direct application to the college. Fees are in the €5,000-€6,000 range and tax relief of €400 can be claimed.

Given the increase in the points requirements for many programmes, disappointed students might consider the wide range of providers, of whom Griffith Colleges and Dublin Business School (DBS) are the biggest nationally.

All private colleges still have several level eight and seven/six degrees on offer, which may be attractive to those who were disappointed by the rise in points for many courses this year.

Study through English in Europe

For students who have been caught out by the surge in points for many CAO programmes, there may be the option of studying in a college abroad.

Although application deadlines have passed for many continental European degree programmes, they are still open for some courses for entry this September, particularly in the Netherlands. A selection of these programmes is available on, together with their application deadline and fees.

Studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity for many young people, but a level of maturity is a prerequisite to successfully navigate through the three or four years of any degree programme.

European universities are relatively easy to get into, but successfully completing first year can be a real challenge, so constant and intensive commitment to the programme is a given, if you want to make it into second year.

Repeat Leaving Cert courses

The numbers repeating the Leaving Cert has dropped by nearly 50 per cent in the past five years.

There are providers both in the public school system such as those in CDETB (City of Dublin Education and Training Board) in Rathmines, Plunket, Pearse and Ringsend Colleges. There are also private providers nationwide such as the Institute of Education in Dublin, Bruce College in Cork, the Tutorial in Limerick and Yates College in Galway.

If you are considering this option, unless you had a specific reason why you missed out on your points target – such as a significant amount of time out of school over the past year or so – there needs to be a major change in your approach to all aspects of study and examination preparation. That is the only way you are going to get a much-improved result to the one you received on August 17th. As the saying goes, “if you do what you did, you will get what you got”.