Key dates for 2021 CAO applications

Timeline for this year’s college application process

Keep note of all important dates in the 2020 college application process. Photograph: iStock

Keep note of all important dates in the 2020 college application process. Photograph: iStock


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 €152.80). Hpat applicants must already have registered with the CAO and have an application number. Late registrations for Hpat are open until February 1st, 5.15pm (€2222.80). An exceptional late registration fee of €257.80 applies until February 3rd, 5.15pm. The Hpat test will take place online via online proctoring (monitored by camera at all times before and during the test) from applicants’ homes over a 4.5 hour’s session on Saturday, 21st or Sunday 22nd February 2021. Hpat applicants will require a desktop computer or laptop with a working built in or external webcam and microphone, with internet speed of at least 2 Mbps down and uploads in order to sit test from home in 2021. Hpat-Ireland is also required for entry into the MSc Occupational Therapy and MSc Speech and Language Therapy (both professional qualifications) at UL).

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 a manner (mostly online) in conformity with Covid19 regulations during this time 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. The Hear scheme 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 or during Easter: The State Examinations Commission’s (SEC) Leaving Cert oral tests in Irish, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese take place in a manner compliant with Covid19 2021 guidelines.

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

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 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 9th: Leaving Certificate written examinations begin and will continue until late June.

On the day of last Leaving Cert written paper: Applicants under 23 who sat the Hpat test in February 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 2021. 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 approx. 6,000 offers to mature (over-23) applicants, and to applicants who accepted and then deferred college offers of places in 2020. In 2021 this will include applicants who secured a higher 2020 offer following an upgrade in the November-December Leaving Cert examinations. These offers are made by post and online at and remain open for about 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 the specified time period.

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

Round zero offers, early August 2020: More than 4,000 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 approx. one week.

Mid-August: The State Examinations Commission delivers 2021 Leaving Cert results to more than 700 second level schools, and makes them available through a secure online service at from noon. Full analysis of the results in the Irish Times supplement.

Mid-August: Immediately following the release of Leaving Cert results an 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.

Within Days: 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 that date .

Shortly Afterwards: Leaving Cert students who are unhappy with a grade they received and wish to view their marked exam scripts may do so online. There is no charge for viewing your marked exam scripts.

Shortly Afterwards: 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.

Within a few days of Round 1 CAO offers: Closing date for receipt of acceptance of CAO round one offers.

A few days later: 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.

A few days later: Closing date for receipt of acceptance of CAO round two offers.

Mid-September: 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.

The exact dates for the release of this year’s Leaving Cert results and the subsequent CAO offers, and all that follows, have not as yet been determined. The Irish Times will update these details online when these dates have been confirmed.