Your CAO offer and how to respond to it

Moment of truth for thousands of applicants as first college offers are issued today.

Only one CAO offer can be accepted and the date and time next week by which it will lapse is clearly printed on the offer notice.

Only one CAO offer can be accepted and the date and time next week by which it will lapse is clearly printed on the offer notice.


Today marks the culmination of the of a process which began so normally in November 2019 when the first of over 70,000 applicants registered their aspiration to secure a place on one of the thousand plus courses on offer by republic of Ireland third level institutions.

For those over twenty three years of age who applied under the mature applicants process, graduates of post leaving cert programmes, those who secured deferrals of their acceptance in 2019, and a number of other categories, offers of places and acceptances have been made and processed in the past six weeks through the CAO offices in Galway. 

For the twenty thousand applicants who sat the Leaving Cert and other school terminal exams in the past few years and the forty-four thousand who received assessed grades in the past week, today is the moment of truth.

My Application Log-in

Each applicant has their own unique access password to enable them to log onto the ‘My Application’ section of the CAO website where they can view their offer or offers.

Applicants may receive an offer from both their Level 8 Honours degree list and their Level 6/7 Higher Cert/Ordinary Degree one. Only one offer can be accepted and the date and time next week by which it will lapse is clearly printed on the offer notice.

If an applicant receives an offer of their 1st choice of either list, then this is the only offer from that list they will receive. If they receive an offer of a lower preference they may, depending on the number of acceptances received by colleges through the CAO website, receive an offer of a higher course choice at any stage over the next month or so as places not already taken up will be reoffered to those next in line based on their CAO points score.

Given the uncertainty over the nature of how programmes will be delivered in the coming academic year, and what access students will have to the non-academic life aspects of college life, due to the necessary restrictions on such activities deriving from public health guidelines relating to Covid-19, it remains to be seen how many course offers will be accepted in the coming days, and how many will choose to postpone their entry into third level until a more traditional college experience is possible.

In any other year only a small fraction of places gets reoffered after round one in mid-August. This is not such a year, and the places offered out today may be reoffered a number of times before all available places are finally taken up.

However, today there is no certainty that any of that may transpire in the coming days and the offer you receive today may be the last one you receive, so consider it carefully in the days ahead before you decide to accept or ignore it.


In any other year a small number of those receiving offers today would opt to seek a deferral of acceptance of their place until the following academic year. Virtually all such requests are normally granted.

Given the expectation that large numbers of successful applicants may choose this option in 2020, colleges have made it clear that the number of deferrals offered will be quite limited, so as to ensure that the applicants in 2021 are not disproportionately negatively affected by a significant reduction in the numbers of places available to them.

It is quite possible that applicants turned down for a deferral by a college will simply opt to take their chances in the 2021 application process. If this occurs it could put CAO points requirements up across the board next year, while they drop in the coming weeks as places are reoffered. Again, this is all conjecture as nobody yet knows how this round of offers will go.

Given that the majority of those receiving offers today were members of the Leaving Cert class of 2020, who last sat down face to face with their guidance counsellor prior to the school closures in mid-March, there may be many school leavers today looking at an offer of a course for which they may not have had the opportunity to fully explore.

There is a well-known phrase “Decide in haste and repent in leisure” which comes to mind when one considers applicants considering a course, they are not totally familiar with. The temptation is to accept it immediately as they may not receive another offer.

Such an action is foolhardy in the extreme. There is nothing worse than the gradual realisation as the winter sets in that you are quickly losing interest in the content of your course, and you begin to disengage from your lectures, tutorials, practical’s, etc. You will not be able to sustain participation in a three to four year degree programme if you do not engage and enjoy its content.

If you are not familiar with every aspect of the course you have been offered today, now is the time to inform yourself. The website has full details on all courses as does the prospectus of the college available on their own website. If you have any questions directly relating to the course or any other aspect of the college from which you have received todays offer, use the coming days to contact them directly and bring yourself up to speed, before you press that ACCEPT button on your CAO offer.

Students who do lose interest in their course and withdraw after a few weeks have passed, face the prospect of paying both the €3000 registration fee and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) subvention of €8000 plus in the 1st year of any new course they may register for in the coming years.

Therefore, make sure that this course offered to you today is in tune with your interests and aptitudes and that having examined its course content over the full duration of the lecture content, you are happy to proceed.

For the vast majority of applicants that will indeed be the case and they can proceed to the next stage of their life journey with excitement, if not a little anxiety in this very changed world we now live in.