Thousands expected to make CAO choices ahead of change of mind deadline

Students encouraged to use genuine preference over peers’ plans ahead of Sunday deadline

Applicants are urged to think carefully before making changes to their order of preference. Photograph: iStock

Applicants are urged to think carefully before making changes to their order of preference. Photograph: iStock


Thousands of prospective third level students are expected to make last-minute college course choices ahead of Sunday’s 5.15pm deadline for the CAO’s “change of mind” facility.

Applicants who wish to change or alter their selection are being advised to use their own “genuine order of preference ” over factors such as where their peers choose to study.

Registered applicants can log in to their CAO account ( and where using the My Application review facility they can add, remove or change the order of their chosen courses.

The CAO annually sees a surge in activity at this time of year as the change of mind deadline approaches. CAO communications officer, Eileen Keleghan, says this can be explained by a number of factors.

“Every year we experience a surge in last minute amendments to CAO applications. This is due to a number of factors, for example more time spent researching courses and the introduction of new areas of interest,” she said.

Most CAO applicants will use the free service at some point. “In 2017, 54 per cent of applicants availed of the change of mind facility at least once,” said Ms Keleghan.

Data supplied by the CAO shows a total of 72,751 applications were received by the normal February 1st closing date. This represents an overall decrease of 3,443 (-4.5 per cent) in applications on the previous year and has raised hopes that points decreases are possible for some courses.

Last year, nursing, teaching and engineering recorded significant drops in point requirements. Figures supplied by the CAO showing 2018 application data up to February 1st showed a drop in applications for the arts, physical sciences, ICT, medicine and veterinary. While education, nursing and pharmacy all showed a marginal increase in interest this year, final points requirements will invariably change as they are determined by applicants’ course choices at the point when the change of mind facility closes at 5.15pm on Sunday.

As the deadline approaches, the head of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition called on Leaving Cert students to consider a course in Stem (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths).

“The pace of change in the jobs market is unprecedented and the demand for skilled Stem employees has never been higher. We want the Stem jobs and industry to be accessible to everyone, so as well as encouraging students to consider Stem in their CAO options. We also want them to know there are other ways to get into Stem, if you do not get the points you need or decided not to go onto third level you can also look at internships and apprenticeships that are becoming more widely available.”

Genuine order of preference

Applicants are urged to think carefully before making changes to their order of preference.

“What we would like to advise applicants to avoid doing is making changes to their order of preference or course choices based on how they feel they have performed in their examinations,” says Ms Keleghan.

“If applicants simply follow the golden rule of placing all of their courses in their genuine order of preference they will be offered the course highest up on their preference list that they are deemed entitled to, if any,” she added.

This advice was echoed by Irish Times education writer and career guidance expert Brian Mooney who said applicants should take their time while reviewing their course selection.

“Don’t do anything rash at the last minute,” he says.

“Make sure you have every base covered and put the courses down in the order that you actually want them, as you may actually do better than you expect. Don’t find yourself not getting the course you would have loved because you didn’t think you were going to do well enough in the exams and didn’t actually list it”

It has been suggested by senior education figures that peer pressure and muddled decision-making at the CAO stage can also be factor for some of the 6,000 students who fail to progress past first year of university.

“Don’t let your friends be the deciding factor,” says Mr Mooney.

“Consider the course you are most interested in and follow that lead. Be strategic and use your Level 6/7 courses. You don’t have to accept the course you get but if you have it listed at least you will have that option,” Mr Mooney said.

Alternative routes

For people seeking alternatives to the traditional third level academic route, the State’s further education and training body, Solas, oversees a growing apprenticeship system and post leaving cert courses provided through a national network of education and training boards.

“There are alternatives. The CAO is not the be-all and end-all of everything,” Mr Mooney said.

“Continue to look at further education. There are people who are not ready for college. You don’t have to go to college this year. For some people it can be the wrong decision.

“A year spent finding your feet, finding out if this is what you want to do is far preferable to barrelling ahead into college because you can’t think of anything else to do and then drop out at Christmas because you don’t have the energy to sustain yourself through three or four years of a college course you don’t like.”

Round 1 CAO offers will be available to view online on Monday, August 20th from 6am. Applicants will have until 5.15 pm on August 24th to register their course acceptance. Those who do not receive an offer in Round 1 will receive a Statement of Application Record which they must carefully check and notify CAO of any errors or omissions. The expected date for Round 2 offers is August 29th.

* For information on choosing the best course and the right college for you, subject profiles and expert advice, hints, tips and information on the CAO, visit:

Other advice for applicants from CAO is as follows:

1. Make sure to carefully check your application and ensure that all of the course codes are correct and listed in order of preference before July 1st at 5.15 pm.

2. When entering new courses or editing existing course choices, applicants must list all courses on the new choices list.

3. After making changes to an application, applicants will receive an email - applicants should read this email carefully to ensure that there are no errors or omissions. - Source: CAO

* A guide for parents and guardians is available to download from the “information for parents” section of the CAO’s website (