CAO deadline day: What students need to know

All colleges ready to deal with last-minute queries from applicants

Colleges, conscious that Leaving Cert students have been absorbed in their exams for the past month, are open to talking to and meeting potential applicants. Photo: iStock

Colleges, conscious that Leaving Cert students have been absorbed in their exams for the past month, are open to talking to and meeting potential applicants. Photo: iStock


With the Leaving Cert completed for another year, the clock is ticking to finalise your course choices. Those seeking third-level places through the Central Applications Office process have until Sunday next, July 1st, at 5.15pm, to finalise any changes to their course choices.

What resources should I consult before finalising my choices?

You should be aware of the full list of courses on offer. Alongside the printed CAO handbook (available at, you can see the full list of course amendments which have taken place since the CAO finalised its 2018 handbook in June 2017.

This amendment list includes some new courses which have been approved by colleges’ governing bodies in the past 12 months, as well as courses which have been discontinued for September 2018 entry.

Another method of ensuring you are aware of all courses on offer in your area of interest is to log on to the advanced course search facility of and list your key search words under both “course title” and “course content”. This procedure will generate a list of courses which match your search words.

If you are still unclear as to which of up to 10 courses to list on either or both level eight (honours degree) or seven/six (ordinary degree/higher cert), you might complete the “interest inventory” at From your result you can proceed within the site to a list of possible courses or occupations which may match your interests.

Some of this data may give you useful pointers in guiding your research in this final week of reflection. There are no costs associated with searches on any of the above-named sites.

Should I talk to colleges directly?

All colleges are geared up to deal with questions from applicants in the coming week, so don’t hesitate to contact them.

All colleges, conscious that Leaving Cert students have been completely absorbed in their exams for the past month, are open to both talking to and meeting potential applicants.

Many of them have advertised specific events this week aimed at applicants still considering their course options.

You may want to talk to lecturers in your area of course interest, or visit the campus to see if it feels right to meet education and personal development needs over the next three to four years.

There is far more to consider than the lecture content of one course when you are deciding on where you are going to commute to, or reside within or near, for the next three or more years.

What if medicine is my first choice?

More than 3,000 applicants to the CAO listed “Human Medicine” as their first course choice, and sat the Hpat medical test earlier this year. These applicants will be receiving their result today.

The website has on its home page a chart which will enable medical applicants to calculate whether their Hpat score is sufficient to secure them an offer of a place on August 20th.

Based on the 2017 combined Leaving Cert CAO points and Hpat score entry requirements, a result today of under 160 alongside six H1s in the Leaving Cert, including maths, would not be sufficient to secure a medical place. Students anticipating CAO points in the 550 range would need to secure Hpat scores in the 175-180 range at a minimum.

Students falling below these scores who have listed only medicine as their five options have until this Saturday to add new courses – otherwise they may end up with no offer from the CAO in August.

When will I learn of my Hear or Dare application?

All applicants who are awaiting the results of Hear (Higher Education Access Route) and Dare ( Disability Access Route to Education), based on a diagnosed disability or economic disadvantage, will be notified of the outcome this week.

Those who are successful may anticipate a reduction in the published points requirements of about 10 per cent in courses within colleges which participate in the scheme.

However, some courses are experiencing large numbers of Hear and Dare applications which far outstrip the number of reserved places.

This may leave many applicants disappointed when they fail to secure an offer of a place, even though they may be within 10per cent of the published minimum points score.

Furthermore, the reduction in entry points is not uniform across the CAO as each faculty within participating colleges determines its own policy.

Any other tips?

Reflect and consult before finalising major changes in previous course choices. Talk to parents/guardians and where possible your guidance counsellor, either in person or by phone through their school office.

If you have just completed your Leaving Cert do not be spooked into removing course choices based on your perceptions of how you may have performed in the exams.

List your choices in the genuine order in which you want them, irrespective of how you think you have performed.

Make use of both your level-eight and level-six/seven lists. You can in many cases progress upon completion from a six/seven course directly on to the equivalent level-eight programme. In your choices allow for all possible outcomes from your exams.

What if I am already at third level and want a change in course?

Current third-level students who are unhappy with their current course or who have failed their exams and wish to consider reapplying to the CAO to secure entry to a new programme in September should apply now to the CAO with documentary evidence stamped by their current college. Such students have until July 22nd to complete this process.

When will offers be made?

The CAO will make two rounds of offers in the coming weeks.

In the first week of July, the CAO will issue offers of places to mature applicants. Furthermore, those who are seeking places based on Post Leaving Cert awards or on places secured and then deferred from 2017 will receive offers in the first week of August. All such offers will be made by post and online, and lapse unless accepted within one week of issue.

The bulk of this year’s college places will be offered at 6am on Monday, August 20th, following the publication of this year’s Leaving Cert results on the previous Wednesday, August 15th.