CAO first round: What to do if you didn’t get an offer

Don’t panic: a college place might still be within your grasp

There are a number of reasons you may not have a CAO offer. First, you may not have got the Leaving Cert or PLC exam result you were hoping for, or you may not have listed sufficient courses with more modest points than the ones you have just secured.

All hope is not lost, as you may be offered a course in round two next week, or later in the process, which will continue so long as places are unfilled.

Alternatively, explore the range of courses on the available places section of the CAO website, which are online after midday tomorrow. If you have not yet applied to the CAO for a college place this year, but are interested in one of the courses on the available places list, you can see them on

What are my chances of getting an offer from the CAO in a later round?

You may still receive an offer in round two on Thursday, August 27th, or in later rounds, from your current list of course choices, or from an “available place” added to your current list of course choices. You can secure an offer of one of these places by putting it on the top of your CAO list of choices and amending your list of course choices on

If, however, you are holding out hope for a late offer of a place from your current list of CAO choices, place the “available place” programme below that course. You may be offered the vacant place in the next round, but if your existing preferable choice later becomes available, you can transfer to it.

Think carefully about changes you make to your list of courses and discuss them with your school guidance counsellor.

Should I consider repeating?

Having exhausted all your CAO options, if you feel you didn’t do yourself justice in the exams, you could consider repeating the Leaving Cert. If you choose this route, be mindful that if you continue to do what you always did, you will get what you always got.

Before committing to repeat the year, sit down and put in place a realistic strategy and work plan to make preparing for next year’s Leaving Cert radically different to the past year.

Repeat opportunities are available from schools and Education Training Board colleges. City of Dublin Education Training Board, for example, offers repeat Leaving Cert programmes in Rathmines College, Plunket College, Pearse College and Ringsend College. The City of Dublin Education Training Board can help every category of student. They know students need a realistic study plan and their teachers can help students devise the right one for them.

Donnchadh Clancy, the principal of Ringsend College, says: "There are three essential ingredients to the successful repeat Leaving Cert: realism, teaching excellence and guidance."

He says most students report a very enjoyable year. “They have let go of school. They are already in a college atmosphere. They enjoy a new feeling of freedom but also feel much more supported and discover a new focus in their studies.”

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Consider a PLC or studying in Europe

If none of the CAO’s vacant place courses interests you, consider a post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) programme. This will allow you to apply again to the CAO next year, with the result of your PLC course as your method of entry. You may also progress directly within the PLC sector, for a degree.

PLC colleges throughout the State have progression arrangements with colleges and universities in the Republic and the UK. As with CAO programmes, details of PLC courses are on

Blackrock Further Education Institute,, is an example of a PLC college. It offers a two-year higher national diploma in business studies, for instance, which leads to a transfer to the nearby IADT, to complete the degree. Students in this situation transfer into third year and get a level seven ordinary degree.

It doesn’t take any longer via this route than starting directly in IADT (two years at Blackrock plus one year at IADT for a level seven degree, or two years at Blackrock institute plus two years at IADT for a level eight honours degree).

Students without a minimum of a D in maths or English in this year’s Leaving Cert can still start this programme in September. The Blackrock institute has similar progression options from the creative multimedia programmes to similar courses in the IADT.

Another option is to apply to a European university, where programmes are open to all EU citizens. Application deadlines have passed for many continental European degree programmes but some are still open for courses from September, particularly in the Netherlands. See for information.

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