Key dates for 2021 CAO applications

Timeline for this year’s college application process

Due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, students are advised to check the website for updates

Due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, students are advised to check the website for updates


May-June: In the second half of May, schools begin the process of assessing the performance of current year Leaving Cert students for the purpose of assessed grades. These grades will then be submitted to the State Examinations Commission in Athlone.

During the month of June students will sit the written Leaving Cert papers for which they have opted on the SEC portal. They are free to change the level of the subject for which they have registered on the SEC portal if they so wish on the day of the written exam itself, but not for the assessed grade process.

In late June applicants under 23 years of age who sat the HPat test earlier in the year receive results to enable them to factor these marks into their final consideration of course choices before July 1st CAO deadline.

July 1st (5.15pm): Final date for any amendments to course choices and order of preference on all CAO applications for entry to college in September 2021. Most current year Leaving Cert applicants make their final course choice decisions/amendments during this “Change of Mind” period in May-June each year.

First week of July: Initial CAO offers are made. The CAO makes more than 6,000 offers to mature (over-23) applicants, and to applicants who accepted and then deferred places in 2020. Included among those offers are those students from the 2020 Leaving Cert year group who chose to sit written papers in Nov/Dec 2020, received these results in Feb 2021, which secured them a higher place course offer than they received through the assessed grade process in September 2020, and are now taking up that higher place offer in September 2021 at no additional costs to themselves.

These offers are made by post and online on and remain open for a week. Mature and deferred applicants who may be away from home should ensure any offer in early July is dealt with, as offers lapse if not accepted within a week. Offers are no longer being posted for any offer round. All offers are available to view online at Successful applicants will also receive an email and a text message (if they selected that option) alerting them to their offer.

July 22nd: Exceptional closing date. The exceptional closing date is for current third-level students who wish to drop out of their current college course and re-apply for a new list of choices through the CAO (€60 fee).

End of July: The SEC will have completed the standardisation process on the assessed grades submitted by schools at the beginning of June. This process takes place prior to the receipt of the actual results of the written papers taken by students in June. Once the results of the written papers become available in August, the SEC will replace an assessed grade where the student secures a higher grade in a written paper. These combined results will then become the provisional results released to students by the SEC in mid-August.

Early August 2021: Round Zero offers. Several thousand places on courses are offered to applicants presenting further education (FE) awards for courses where a quota for QQI FE applicants apply, and to an additional cohort of mature applicants. Applicants for graduate medicine are also offered places in this round. Offers are open for one week.

3 September 2021: The Department of Education (DES) delivers 2021 awarded grades to more than 700 schools and makes them available through a secure online service at from noon. Full analysis of the results in an Irish Times supplement. Shortly afterwards the CAO releases round one offer’s to candidates online. Minimum points required for entry to each course will be available on the CAO website, and on the Irish Times website as soon as they are released. A week after the issuing of round one offers, the CAO will close off the option to accept that place. Within a few days the CAO releases round two offers to applicants. The minimum points required for entry to each course are released on the CAO website on that date. A further few days later will be the closing date for receipt of acceptance of CAO round two offers.

7 September: CAO Round One offers will issue Tuesday, 7 September at 2pm.

13 September: The reply date for accepting Round One offers will be Monday, 13 September at 3pm

Note: Due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, students are advised to check the website for updates.