CAO first round: So you have a course offer – what now?

Here’s how to deal with the offer of a place you received today, or an offer in future rounds

Weighing up your options: if you are unfamiliar with the course or college you have been offered, do not accept it until you have fully explored it on Photograph: Thinkstock

Weighing up your options: if you are unfamiliar with the course or college you have been offered, do not accept it until you have fully explored it on Photograph: Thinkstock


Wherever you are in the world, when you log into your CAO file this morning, if you are happy to accept one of the two possible offers on the screen in front of you, securing it is simplicity itself. It will take less than a minute to execute, and you need access to the internet and to remember the personal password you created when you opened your CAO account.

If you have any difficulty initially accessing your offer online, don’t panic as there are up to 45,000 other 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 24th, at 5.15pm to accept your 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.

Or you may be offered a programme from both CAO course lists.

Or you may unfortunately not be offered any college place 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 the first scenario 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 the third scenario, you have unfortunately not had any offer from the CAO in this round.

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 that may not be the right decision.

You may have a course at the top of your level 8 list of preferences, but for which you don’t have enough points. There are many level 7/6 courses in the same disciplines as level 8 degrees, and if you secure at least 60 per cent at the end of year two of your level 7/6 course, you could 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 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 over and above the €3,000 the State charges every student (other than those in receipt of a grant) to register for their course.

The full course fee will be in addition to the annual registration charge, which from 2016 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 chance that, if the points for the course you have just been offered increase in 2016 beyond your points score, you will not be offered a place.


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 candidates 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 could get a place on this course by repeating the subject in the 2016 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 2016. 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 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,

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 someplace to live 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 charges when registering, unless they are eligible for a grant, where the Higher Education Authority pays them 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 April. 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 115,000 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 2014 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, 2015 or an independent mature student (over 23) who can prove independent living prior to October 1st, 2014.

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 students receive grant payments from September 2015.

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