Drop in number of CAO applications

Lowest number of applicants in five years may ease pressure on points for some courses

The number of applicants who have applied for college courses has dropped to the lowest level in at least five years.

A total of 72,751 applicants applied ahead of the CAO’s normal application deadline at 5.15pm on Thursday, down almost 5 per cent on the same period last year.

This could contribute to an easing of pressure on points requirements for some courses. However, this will hinge on trends for applicants’ course choices. A breakdown of this information is not yet available.

Last year, nursing, teaching and engineering recorded some of the significant drops in CAO points.

They were among hundreds of courses where points are down due a combination of fewer applicants and reforms to exam grading and the CAO points system.

The reduction in CAO applications this year has surprised some observers given the number of Leaving Cert students is on the rise for demographic reasons.

Mature applicants

It suggests that the reduction may be linked to a decline in adult or mature applicants, who have accounted for up to 15 per cent of applications over recent years.

Their numbers increased during the economic downturn and they may now be on the decline due to job opportunities in the growing economy.

The latest CAO figures do not represent the total number of applicants as a late application facility opens on March 5th and closes on May 1st at 5.15pm.

A “change of course choices” facility will become available on the CAO website on Monday February 5th for all registered applicants.

This facility can be used by mature applicants to add course choices and for applicants who have forgotten to include a restricted course on their CAO application. A fee of €10 applies.

Most applicants will use the free “change-of-mind facility” which opens in May and closes on July 1st at 5.15pm.

Opportunities to change

CAO communications officer Eileen Keleghan said: "Most applicants who have already applied to CAO will have opportunities to change their course choices in May or June for no extra charge.

“If an applicant has forgotten to apply for a restricted course, or if they are a restricted-category applicant, they should avail of our change of course choices facility which opens on Monday and is available until 5.15pm on March 1st.”

A late application facility may also be used by most applicants, however restrictions apply, she said.

The late application fee is €60 for online applicants and €90 for paper applicants.

“Students with concerns about their options or their application should consult their guidance counsellor, the admissions officers in the individual institutions, and read the CAO handbook,” Ms Keleghan said.

“If they cannot find the answer to their application query they can email CAO using the ‘contact’ page on the website,” she added.