The CAO offers are out so it's time for action


Got your first choice? Great. For those who didn’t, remember that regardless of what happened today, you still have options

Q The outcome of my CAO application is now clear. What next?

AYOU WERE sitting anxiously in front of your computer watching the clock tick down to 6am, along with most of the other 45,000 Leaving Certificate students throughout the country. As the clock struck, you nervously logged on to the CAO website ( to see what offer or offers you had received from colleges on your list of choices.

Hopefully you are one of the fortunate ones to have received your first choice course and you are now looking forward to life as a third-level student. You may also have been offered courses from further down your list of choices and are considering whether to accept them or not. Finally, you may not have received any offer today and you are now considering other options for the coming academic year.

Q I got an offer I’m happy with. How do I accept my place?

A YOU CAN accept your place online through the CAO website, using your access code and password. Once you have internet access anywhere in the world this process takes a matter of minutes and should be completed well before the cut-off date for acceptance of round one offers on Monday next, the 27th August at 5.15pm. If you’re one of the small number of applicants who choose to post your acceptance, do so at least a day before the deadline and get a certificate of posting from your post office. If you do not accept your place by the closing date you will lose this particular course offer and cannot retrieve it in the current year. The place you have been offered will go back into the system and will be offered to someone else in the second round offers next week.

Q I didn’t get offered my first CAO choice, but have been offered one of my lower choices. What should I do now?

ATHE CHANCES are that you may not have researched this course very well as you had no idea it was ultimately the one you were going to be offered.

Firstly, go immediately to the Qualifax website ( and read every last detail of the course content, possible opportunities to progress other more advanced programmes, career progression opportunities, Erasmus and work placement components of this course. Otherwise, “decide in haste and repent at leisure”.

Take your time over the next week to consider the full implications of accepting this particular offer. If you are seriously considering accepting it, at a minimum visit the college itself, explore all aspects of what it has to offer and talk to the staff in the course department. They will give you a very honest assessment if they feel you are right for this programme. It’s not in their interest to have high dropout rates on their programmes. If at the end of the week you are convinced that this course is right for you, accept it: if not have the courage to let it go. If there are elements to the programme offered to you that you were unaware of, and which you feel uncomfortable about, you might be better to wait to see if you receive an offer from higher up your list of choices, which you will get if it becomes available. Don’t assume though that points for a higher choice preferences will decrease in later rounds, as only a small number of places are offered after round one offers have been processed, so do not rely on receiving any further offers.

Q I’m delighted with my CAO offer, but I don’t want to start college immediately. Ideally I would like to take a year out. Will I lose my course if the points go up next year?

A NO YOU WON’T, at least not if you act now. Firstly, do accept the offer in the manner shown on the offer notice. Write or e-mail immediately to the admissions office of the college offering you the place. Give your name as it appears on your CAO application, quote your 2012 CAO application number and the course code of the offer you wish to defer, and outline the reason(s) for the request. Write “deferred entry” clearly on the envelope or in the subject line of your e-mail. The letter or e-mail must arrive in the admissions office at least two days before the reply date shown on the offer notice.

The most likely scenario is that the college will allow you to defer, but you must remember to reapply to the CAO next year, listing only the deferred course on your CAO application. If you list more than the deferred course, you are then back in open competition with next year’s applicants.

Q I’m really confused. I got more points than I needed for my course but I didn’t get offered a place today.

A EVERY COURSE has minimum entry requirements which are all available on If you have the points, you must be lacking one of the minimum entry requirements for this course.

It may simply be that you have passed a minimum entry subject, but you need a higher grade in it. You can still gain entry to this course next year, by repeating that subject and hopefully meeting the minimum entry requirement you are currently lacking.

Unless you are seeking a place in medicine, you can add a minimum entry requirement to this year’s points total and apply again for the course you want next year. The additional points you secure in meeting the minimum entry requirement cannot be added to increase your points score, as you can only present the points secured in one sitting of the Leaving Certificate.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the points requirement for the course will not either rise or fall next year.

Q I got an offer from both my lists. I missed out on what I wanted on my higher degree list but got it on my Level 7/6 list. Should I accept the Level 8 course as it is of a higher standard?

A DO NOT let snobbery distract you from your long-term career goals. If the Level 6 or 7 course offered to you is in the area that you want to study, and it allows you to progress on to a Level 8 degree on successful completion of your course, it would be unwise to turn it down. It would also be unwise to accept a Level 8 place in an area that is not of genuine interest to you.

Remember that what you study in college frames your career options into the future. Study what you are genuinely interested in and you will progress rapidly through the various academic levels, right up to doctorate level if you wish. Don’t get diverted from this path by the perceived prestige of one course, or level of course, over another.

Q I didn’t get a CAO offer. Do I have any options at all?

A YES YOU DO. You may still receive an offer of a place in round two. You can also check out the extensive list of vacant places that is updated daily on the CAO website. These are courses that the colleges still have places available for and you may secure an offer of one of these places by simply identifying the course you are interested in and placing it on the top of your CAO list of choices, by amending your list on the CAO website.

If none of these courses interests you, you may consider the option of a Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) course, which will allow you to apply again to the CAO next year, presenting the result of your PLC course as your method of entry. Details of the courses available are published in this supplement and in some cases, places may still be available in the current academic year. Remember, regardless of what happened today, you still have options. The important thing is not to panic and to do your research. Good luck.

For information on all courses available to you, both within and beyond the CAO programmes, see

Brian Mooney is guidance counsellor at Oatlands College, Dublin