Key dates for 2020 CAO applications

Timeline for this year’s college application process

January 20th (5.15pm): Closing date for the CAO early-bird online applications. A fee of €30 applies before this date and increases after that date to €45, until February 1st.

January 20th (5.15pm): This is also the registration date for Hpat-Ireland 2020 (fee €140). To complete your application, you must already have registered with the CAO and have an application number. Late registrations for Hpat are open until February 1st, 5.15pm (€210). An exceptional late registration fee of €245 applies until February 3rd, 5.15pm. The Hpat test takes place in centres around the country on Saturday, February 22nd. Hpat-Ireland is also required for entry into the MSc Occupational Therapy and MSc Speech and Language Therapy (both professional qualifications) at UL), fee €165.

February 1st (5.15pm): Closing date for normal applications to the CAO for entry to all first-year undergraduate courses. People applying for restricted application courses (those with early assessments such as interviews or portfolio assessment) must list any such course on their CAO application by this date.

February 5th: Online facility to amend course choices becomes available for a late fee of €10 until March 1st. Only those who have omitted a restricted application course need utilise this facility.


February-April: Interviews and portfolio presentations for restricted application courses take place in colleges throughout the country during this period. Following these assessments, applicants learn if they are approved for consideration for a place on each programme. Marks are awarded in many cases, which are added to an applicant's CAO points score in August, to determine offers of places.

March 1st (5.15pm): This is the final date for CAO applicants to add any restricted application course choices, and to complete the online sections of the application process under the Hear (Higher Education Access Route) and/or Dare (Disability Access Route to Education) schemes. Hear is the admissions route for school-leavers who for social, financial or cultural reasons are under-represented at third level. Dare is the supplementary admissions scheme offering a small number of places on reduced points to school-leavers with a designated disability. Who gets those places is at the discretion of each course director and may favour those with specific disabilities or who qualify for both Hear and Dare?

March 15th (5.15pm): All supporting documentation for Hear or Dare must be supplied to the CAO to arrive in its offices in Galway by post by that date.

Prior to Easter: The State Examinations Commission's (SEC) Leaving Cert oral tests in Irish, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese take place in all second-level schools.

Late April: Results are released for UL and mature applicants who sat the Hpat undergraduate medical entry aptitude test on February 22nd.

May 1st (5.15 pm): Closing date for late CAO applications. The fee for an online application up to this date is €60. After this, no further applications will be accepted for the 2020 academic year.

May 5th: The CAO change-of-mind facility opens, which enables applicants to amend, or list for the first time, their course choices. Candidates get a statement of application record by post before the end of May, listing all details supplied by applicants to date. Inform the CAO if you do not receive it, or if there are any errors on this form.

June 3rd: Leaving Certificate written examinations begin and continue until Tuesday, June 23rd.

June 24th: Applicants under 23 who sat the Hpat test on February 22nd receive results to enable them to factor these marks into their final consideration of course choices before July 1st CAO deadline.

July 1st (5.15pm): Final date for any amendments to course choices and order of preference on all CAO applications for entry to college in September 2020. Most current year Leaving Cert applicants make their final course choice decisions/amendments during this "Change of Mind" period in May-June each year.

Initial CAO offers during first week of July: The CAO makes more than 6,000 offers to mature (over-23) applicants, and to applicants who accepted and then deferred places in 2019. These offers are made by post and online at and remain open for a week. Mature and deferred applicants who may be away from home should ensure any offer in early July is dealt with, as offers lapse if not accepted within a week.

July 22nd (5.15pm): An exceptional closing date for current third-level students who wish to drop out of their current college course and re-apply for a new list of choices through the CAO (€60 fee).

Round zero offers, early August 2020: More than 2,000 places on courses are offered to applicants presenting further education (FE) awards and to an additional cohort of mature applicants. Applicants for graduate medicine are also offered places in this round. Offers are open for one week.

*Tuesday, August 11th: The State Examinations Commission delivers 2020 Leaving Cert results to more than 700 schools, and makes them available through a secure online service at from noon. Full analysis of the results in Irish Times supplement.

*Wednesday, August 12th, 9am-Friday 14th, 5pm: Application to view scripts can be made online only on the SEC Student Portal. Students will also have access to the component marks of their various scripts at this time.

*Thursday, August 13th: The CAO releases round one offers to candidates online that afternoon. Minimum points required for entry to each course will be available on the CAO website at that time and are printed in full in The Irish Times Round One Offers supplement on Friday 14th .

*Friday, August 14th (5pm)-Thursday August 20th (5pm): Students who wish to appeal the result in one or more Leaving Cert subjects can apply online through the SEC Student Portal to do so between these dates. A fee of €40 per subject applies, which is refunded in the case of an upgrade.

*Tuesday, August 18th-Wednesday, August 19th: Leaving Cert students who are unhappy with a grade they received on Tuesday 11th and wish to view their marked exam scripts in their school may do so on Tuesday 18th and/or Wednesday 19th as assigned by their school. Students, along with one person of their choice, can view their scripts, which are available in their schools. The scripts cannot be viewed by anyone else unless the student is present. There is no charge for viewing your marked exam scripts. Scripts in subjects which were scanned and corrected online in June will be available to view online from 5pm Tuesday 18th to 5pm on Wednesday 19th.

*Friday, August 21st (5.15 pm): Closing date for receipt of acceptance of CAO round one offers.

*Wednesday, August 26th: The CAO makes round two offers available to applicants online. The minimum points required for entry to each course are released on the CAO website on that date.

*Friday, August 28th (5.15 pm): Closing date for receipt of acceptance of CAO round two offers.

*Friday, September 18th: Results of Leaving Cert appeals released by the SEC by this date. Final offers of places by the CAO will be made in the days following the release of appeal results by the SEC.

* All the above information is based on a continuation in 2020 of the new structures put in place in 2019 as a result of the Rebecca Carter court judgement. The Department of Education, the State Examination Commission, the CAO, and the colleges represented by the CAO, and the bodies representing school management, are currently reviewing all aspects of how 2019 operated, and may at a date in the coming weeks or months amend some of the arrangements for the coming year, which may, if they choose to do so, change some of the dates or arrangements listed above in August-September 2020.

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney is a guidance counsellor and education columnist. He contributes education articles to The Irish Times