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Round One: The wait is almost over for thousands of applicants

Round One CAO offers will be available to view online from 2pm today.

Round One CAO offers will be available to view online from 2pm today.


It’s been a long and difficult year but the wait for this year’s crop of prospective third-level students ends today.

Tens of thousands of applicants will find out this afternoon if their college application has been successful when they receive Round One offers through the Central Applications Office (CAO).

The Round One offer constitutes the main body of offers that takes place after the results of the Leaving Cert are issued, or as in this year’s case, the calculated grades, which were made available last Monday.

The Irish Times will provide coverage online, in mobile and in print throughout the day and over the weekend.

Our coverage will feature news, analysis and expert opinion, plus advice and updates from students, teachers and experts.

Guidance counsellors Brian Howard and Deirdre Garrett will be on hand at from 2pm to answer your questions about the college offers. Readers can also submit queries by email to

The helpdesk will reopen on Saturday at 10am and will operate until 7pm. It will be open again on Sunday morning and will remain in operation until 1pm.

The Irish Times will continue its coverage over the weekend with a special supplement on Saturday featuring full CAO listings, news, extensive advice, and analysis.

Round One offers

The Round One offers will be available to view online from 2pm and successful applicants should also receive an offer notification by email and text message if they selected this option during the application process.

Students can choose to accept the offer immediately if they wish but they have time to consider their offer as the deadline for Round One offer acceptance is 3pm on September 16th.

According to figures released by the CAO, 78,168 applications were received by CAO this year - an increase of 462 applicants on the previous year.

First preference data, released by the CAO in July, gives some indication of where demand is up and down this year across categories of courses, such as arts, business or science, and this can influence whether points are likely to rise, fall or stay the same for individual courses.

Some applicants will look to the first preference application data released by the CAO in the hope of guessing how application numbers might impact the points allocation for their chosen course; but they will have to wait until this afternoon to discover for certain if they have secured the college place of their choice.

There are other variables at play. Most of this year’s CAO applicants (61,043) adjusted their course choices in the run-up to the change of mind deadline, a period during which it was announced that Leaving Cert exams would be postponed and replaced with calculated grades.

The 2020 applications figures released by the CAO in July showed an increase in applications for the following subject areas: some of the biggest year-on-year percentage increases in applications for honours degree courses include physiotherapy (+25 per cent), dentistry (+17 per cent), veterinary medicine, and law (+16 per cent).

There were also increases in courses linked to the environment (+8 per cent), architecture (+8 per cent), secondary education (+7 per cent), medicine, pharmacy and engineering (+ 6 per cent).

Some of the biggest decreases in applications were for humanities (-9 per cent), arts (-7 per cent), agriculture (-5 per cent), and art and design (-3 per cent). Journalism (+5 per cent) recovered somewhat from an eight per cent drop last year while social and behavioural sciences also saw an increase ( + 5 per cent).

The surge in applications for high points courses may also be a sign that some students felt inclined to apply for courses with stronger employment prospects amid concerns of rising unemployment and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

While it is reasonable to look to these figures in the hope of getting a rough indication as to how courses will fare, it is worth noting that the categories used by the CAO when collating these figures are quite broad and represent the average changes in preferences across sectors, rather than applications to individual courses.

The Irish Times helpdesk will operate at from 2.30pm until 8pm on Friday and from 10am to 7pm on Saturday and 10am to 1pm on Sunday to answer any questions students or their parents might have about the college applications.

Good luck all.