Leaving Cert Q&A: When will I start college in light of the delay issuing results?

Some colleges say first years will likely start in either late September or early October

When exactly are Leaving Cert results and CAO offers due?

The Department of Education announced on Thursday evening that the Leaving Cert results will issued on September 7th. This is about three weeks later than the normal mid-August date. CAO round one offers will issue four days later on September 11th at 2pm.

How long will I have to accept my offer of a college place?

Students will have five days - until 3pm on September 16th - to accept their offers. This is a shorter time window than usual.


Round two offers are due out on September 23rd at 10am. Again students will have just two days - September 25th at 12 midday - to accept. There are no confirmed dates yet for subsequent rounds.

If I get a college course, when am I likely to start?

Sources across a number of third level colleges say first years are likely to start in either late September or early October.

Individual institutions are still finalising dates, but say they are keen to ensure starting dates are as close as possible to those advertised.

Will there be orientation days for first years ?

Many colleges had been planning to admit first year students in mid to late September - in advance of the main body of students - for orientation weeks and to get to know the campus.

These plans may now be either cancelled or run in parallel with the return to college for all students.

What about accommodation? How can I source a place to live at such short notice?

This is a real challenge for first years. They will have just weeks - or days if they get a second round offer - to secure accommodation before classes begin.

Many will find themselves at the back of the queue in the accommodation hunt, given that other students will have started already.

It’s not all bad news, though, Many larger colleges reserve a proportion of accommodation for first years, though this is typically over-subscribed.

There may also be softer demand for accommodation given that so much teaching and learning will take place online.

If I’m unhappy with my calculated Leaving Cert grades, can I appeal the results?

Yes. Minister for Education Norma Foley indicated on Friday that students will be able to appeal by September 14th.

She also indicated that process will take place as fast as possible to ensure students who secure an offer on foot of an upgrade can take up that college place.

The appeal process, however, is just an administrative one. It will ensure school-issued grades have been accurately transcribed and no errors were made. It will not involve reviewing whether a student merited a particular grade based on their school work. In theory, this process should take place relatively quickly but nothing so far has proved simple or easy.

Will Leaving Cert results this year be more generous than previous years given the circumstances of how they are being issued?

It seems unlikely. Schools have issued calculated grades for students with an eye on the grade profile of their students over recent years.

So, if a school has usually had four or five H1s in English, this pattern will be repeated this year.

In addition, school results will be subject to a standardisation process or “bell curve”. This means overall national results are adjusted to make sure they are in line with previous years.

So, if 5 per cent of students nationally got a H1 in English last year, this year’s results will be adjusted to ensure a similar proportion gets a H1 this year.

This happens every year - but many students may not be aware of it.

Critics say it is unfair, but experts say it is aimed at ensuring grades are consistent and reliable from year to year.

Will my Leaving Cert results be issued in time for access to courses in the UK?

Yes. The Minister said any student who gets their result on September 7th and secures a course in the UK will be in a position to take up that course through Ucas, the UK’s equivalent of the CAO.

However, it may be too late for those applying for courses in Holland and Denmark.

By law, Dutch universities currently have to receive results by August 31st. Colleges in Denmark also have a deadline of August 31st. It remains to be seen if they will extend this.

Why is it taking so long to award Leaving Cert students calculated grades?

The length of time it is taking to issue the grades is understood to be linked to the challenge of accurately applying the new system of predicted grades for more than 450,000 individual grades for just over 60,000 students.

Ms Foley said these grades need to be standardised at a national level for fairness and to ensure highest possible standards.

In addition, she said all individual grades will have to be checked and reviewed using different demographic characteristics – including gender and socio-economic status – to ensure they are as equitable as possible.

Why do I have to register to opt-in to receive my grades?

Students are being requested to formally opt-in online to receive their grades from next Monday at midday.

Many are asking why students need to do this, having already registered online last month.

Officials say the second step is required as some students may not wish to receive a calculated grade, and may instead opt to take on the written exams whenever they are held.

However, this still begs the questions why a tick-box was not included allowing students to do this when they first registered with the portal.

How much of college will take place on campus this year?

It will vary. Most larger lectures will take place online, but colleges are planning that smaller lectures and group work - such as tutorials and lab work - will take place on campus.

Most colleges have indicated that students can expect to be on campus for two or three days a week.

However, others - such as UL - say first year students will attend college for one week in three, and one in four for other students.