CAO offers: choose based on where your passions lie

If you are offered a place on both lists opt for the one you will relish and finish


Ten of thousands of you were up at the crack of dawn this morning, waiting to log on to the CAO website,, which released all first round offers at 6am. Whether you are at home or sunning yourself in some far distant holiday resort, accepting your place is simplicity itself, provided you have access to the internet and can remember your personal password.

If you are having any difficulty accessing your offer, don’t panic as there are up to forty thousand applicants trying to do the same thing. The CAO website may become congested for short periods of time today, but if it does, simply log on again after a few minutes. After all, you have until Monday week, 26th August at 5.15 pm to accept the first round offer of a college place.

There are three possible scenarios which you may face when you log on to view your personal file on the CAO website this morning:

1) You may be offered a single course on either your level eight honours degree, or your level seven/six ordinary degree/higher certificate list of course choices.

2) You may alternatively be offered a programme of study from both CAO course lists.

3) Finally, you may unfortunately not be offered any courses today, and may have to consider an alternative option to studying a course within the CAO application process this year.

Scenarios one and three are relatively straightforward. Where you receive two offers today from the CAO the position is a little more complex.

In the first scenario, you have one offer which you have a week to accept. If by next Monday you have not accepted it, the offer lapses and you cannot retrieve it.

In the third scenario, where you have not secured any offer – either because you did not get the results you were hoping for, or you did not list sufficient courses with more modest points requirements – you may be offered a course in round two offers next week, or later in the offer process, which will continue so long as places are unfilled.

Alternatively you can explore the wide range of courses on offer on the vacant places section of the CAO website.

Tens of thousands of you will be in scenario two. You will have received offers on both your level eight higher degree list as well as your level seven/six list. You can only accept one course, so you have to choose one of the two courses on offer to you today. It might seem obvious that you would automatically accept the level eight courses you have been offered, but you might be wrong.

Many level seven/six courses have level eight equivalents which may be at the top of your level eight list, but you may not have secured the points to receive an offer. But if you secure at least a 60 per cent grade at the end of year two of your level seven/six programme, you can transfer to the beginning of year two of the equivalent course at level eight.

If you find yourself in this situation this morning, I strongly advise you to seriously consider opting for the level seven/six course on offer to you, rather than accept a level eight course which is one of your lower preferences, and may not be a course you have any real interest in studying.

Whichever course you do accept today, or over the next few days, will have no effect on your entitlement to receive an offer on a course higher up either of your two lists, if such a course becomes available to you in a later offer round.

Vacant places
If you would now like to consider going to college this year, but have not even applied to the CAO, you can still explore the options available on the vacant places list, which will be on the CAO website after midday tomorrow, Tuesday, August 20th. If you find a course that suits, you can apply for it on the CAO website.

Finally, if you are in any way unfamiliar with the course content or college from which you received an offer today, do not accept it until you have fully explored it. Log on to the Qualifax website,, and read every detail of the course content. Look at the career progression opportunities it offers and, if you have not visited the college, do so before you accept the place offered.

If you find that the course would not sustain your interest over its full duration, have the courage to let it pass – accepting it may see you dropping out or failing your exams. If that happens to you, the State, which pays the college an average of €4,000 for you for each year of your chosen course, will not do so for any year you repeat. Therefore, accepting a course you later abandon is a very expensive mistake to make. Reflect carefully on what you have been offered today, before you decide what to do.