Wednesday 21 February 2018

CAO Advice Centre: No offer? No need to panic, there are options for you

If you have a CAO query you can ask our expert by emailing

Aoife Walsh

Here are some of the options available to students who find themselves in this situation.

Vacant places

The CAO vacant places is a facility  whereby students can apply for places on courses that are not filled. The process started during the summer  and was closed for a period to facilitate the Round One offers.

From noon, tomorrow, Tuesday, August 19,  a continuously updated list of courses with available places  can be found on 

Photo: Getty Images. Picture posed.
Photo: Getty Images. Picture posed.

 Those candidates who have already registered with the CAO may make an application for a vacant place with no extra cost. Applicants who have not yet registered with the CAO may apply for vacant places for a fee of €40.Applicants must meet the minimum entry requirements for the course they are apply to, they will then be ranked on points in comparison to other vacant places applicants.

Further information may be found on page 4 of the CAO handbook.


CAO Round Two

Students may receive an offer of a place during  Round Two - on Thursday August 28 - even if they have not received an offer at Round One. This occurs when not all the places on a particular course where filled in Round One. These places are then offered  to the person who is ranked next by points. There is no guarantee that any course will have places available at Round Two, so applicants disappointed with a  Round One offer  make their decisions on the presumption  that no other offer will be received. Then, if a place becomes available,  it can be accepted even if an application has been made to a  CAO “vacant place” or other courses.


Study in Europe

Universities all over Europe offer courses through English, even in countries where English is not the main language. Many of these courses have lower entry requirements than Irish courses as well as low fees. Some universities are receiving applications at present. For more information students should see or UNICAS is a central applications service for apply for courses in Europe.  


PLC /Further Education

The PLC/ further education sector offers a wide variety of courses,  which can be taken over one or two years. These qualifications lead to level 5 and level 6 FETAC awards. They are excellent qualifications that  students can use to entry the world of work or to gain entry to universities and Institutes of Technology.While these colleges have been accepting applicants since January and some of the more popular courses may be filled there will be a number of places available at this time. Applicants who are interested in applying for a PLC at this time should contact their local PLC college to enquire about availability and dates of interviews.



There are a many options still available in the UK.  UCAS,  the centralised agency processing applications for colleges in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales goes through a process called clearing, where any available places  can be applied for by any student whether they have  already applied to UCAS or not.

As CAO offers were released in Ireland,  there were 355 UK third level colleges offering courses through “clearing”.  Among  these were 56 in University of Ulster,  including some prestigious courses such as psychology and computers. Queens University Belfast had 83 courses including medical chemistry, pharmacy and engineering.  Other popular courses currently available around the UK include nursing and primary  education.

An interested student should  start by researching the available courses on Students can search by keyword, course, institution and even county or area.

 Check entry requirements on courses. Some will show Irish LeavingCert., requirements. If they are not shown on the internet, admissions officers can  provide this information over the phone.

As “points” are related to CAO only, UCAS and UK colleges in general will deal in grades or what are known as UCAS tariff points.

Applicants must fill out a UCAS application form on including a personal statement and a reference. The reference should be completed by a teacher or other person who can comment on the student’s ability to succeed in their chosen subject area.

 At the same time students should ring the institutions of interest to check their chances of acceptance.

Once a “clearing” number is received and a decision on the preferred course from these informal offers, a student should enter the details of this course alone into the clearing section of the UCAS application.

Some colleges will accept lower grades than advertised during the clearing process and some will not, so ringing, and speaking to someone in the college, is vital.

If an offer is made, an applicant can follow the progress of the application online. UCAS will contact the student  in writing to confirm the offer and acceptance and let the applicant know if any thing else is required.

There are some really useful films and explanations of clearing on aswell as

Irish Independent

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