Students left without college offers due to errors or omissions in their CAO applications

CAO says it gave applicants ample opportunities to correct their details

Significant numbers of Leaving Cert students have not received any college offers after failing to spot "urgent" emails from the CAO alerting them to errors or omissions in their applications.

In many cases, the affected students secured the points required for their first-choice courses but lost out because their exam numbers were not recorded on the CAO system.

Students who update their details will be eligible for round two offers later this month.

In a statement, the CAO said it provided “ample” opportunities for applicants to correct omissions, which included reminder emails and, in some cases, text messages, along with a radio campaign reminding applicants of the importance of verifying their account information.


It said applicants were also advised at the outset of the importance of regularly checking their CAO accounts, which contain important correspondence relating to their applications.

However, students affected have expressed frustration that they lost out on college places after failing to spot correspondence in their personal email accounts which, in some cases, appear to have been directed into the “junk” sections of their email accounts.

In some cases, students say they assumed their details were correct after receiving emails or electronic correspondence in May stating “exam details verified”.

Pronsias de Poire, principal of Coláiste Eoin in Stillorgan, Co Dublin, said 11 students out of about 150 Leaving Certs at his school and the neighbouring school, Coláiste Ísogáin, were affected.

“Yes, they got reminder emails, and it could have been handled better, and we need to move on now and wait for round two. But this is a generation of students who don’t necessarily use email that much. These students are on social media instead,” he said.

“If I need to contact my sixth years, I send a Whatsapp message, because I’ll only reach maybe 50 per cent of them on email,” he said.

Séadh Corcoran (18), a student at Colaiste Eoin, said he was devastated not to receive a CAO offer on Tuesday after securing enough points - 589 - to study medicine at UCD.

“I was shocked when I didn’t get on offer. It wasn’t that I’d missed out on points - it was an error I wasn’t aware of. It was sickening,” he said.

Mr Corcoran said he updated his CAO application and course choices during May and June and that there was no "warning or flagging that there was an issue with my application" at that stage.

After reviewing his emails this week, he saw that he had received an email on July 20th with a subject line: “Urgent email from CAO – please read immediately,” which sought his examination number.

“I wasn’t looking at my emails at that stage. The CAO offers had closed at that stage, so I assumed everything was fine,” he said.

The CAO said it was not yet in a position to say how many students were affected by errors or omissions this year.

However, The Irish Times has been contacted by more than a dozen students affected, while guidance counsellors say there are aware of significantly more cases this year than is usual.

The CAO said candidates who supply correct data will be included for consideration of college offers for round two on September 20th.

“Where possible, higher education institutions will do their best to accommodate applicants who would have received an offer if they had entered their examination data correctly,” a CAO spokeswoman said.

The CAO said it runs a data-matching process that combines exam data from the State Examinations Commission (SEC) with data directly supplied by applicants in their CAO application.

In some cases, it said, information on the SEC file does not match that on the CAO file.

In these cases, CAO emailed applicants with instructions to supply their exam number on a number of occasions.

In other cases, applicants did not indicate on their CAO application that they are sitting the Leaving Certificate exam this year and were asked to update this information on multiple occasions.

“This year, the majority of applicants confirmed their account information, as requested. Subsequent emails were sent by CAO in June to applicants who had not yet confirmed their application. A reminder text message was also sent to some applicants, and a media release and national radio campaign was launched to remind applicants of the importance of the verifying their account information,” a CAO spokeswoman said.

“CAO provides ample opportunities for applicants to correct errors and omissions in advance of the commencement of the offers process. I would encourage all of the applicants who have been in touch to carefully check the correspondence section of their account.”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent