Tuesday 12 December 2017

A week to deadline - some CAO essentials

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

There is a week left to the most important deadline of the CAO - February 1. There are a number of essentials to which applicants must attend by this date.


February 1 is the deadline for normal applications and registering with the CAO. Any applicant who registers for the first time after February 1 will be considered a late applicant and will be restricted in the range of courses for which they can apply. Therefore, all applicants should register for the CAO and pay their €40 fee before February 1. The CAO does offer a discounted rate for students who register before January 20, but that has now passed. Once an applicant has paid the fee, they will receive their CAO number.

Mature students

Mature students must take particular note of the February 1 deadline. As mature students are judged on criteria other than points and Leaving Cert subjects/grades, they should ensure that their CAO application is as close to perfect as possible by February 1. Mature applicants are likely to be required to participate in testing or interviews; therefore, many colleges will not take applications for courses after this date. While mature students can re-order their preferences during the Change of Mind period (May 5 to July 1) they will find there are few courses that can be added at that time. Some colleges require mature applicants to submit an extra application to their admissions office; if this is required it must also be submitted by February 1.

Restricted-Entry courses

These courses require applicants to complete some element of assessment, other than points, to gain entry. This may be a portfolio, audition, test or interview. These subjects are often art, music or drama courses but also include medicine, some architecture courses and others. These courses are clearly marked in the CAO handbook. They must be listed on the CAO application by February 1, so colleges can make arrangements for applicants to participate in these assessments. Restricted-entry courses can be rearranged and removed from an applicant's preference list during the Change of Mind period - they may not be added at that time. HEAR and DARE applicants Any applicant who intends to apply for the HEAR or DARE access programmes must also be conscious of this deadline. Thankfully, the task they must complete is small, but essential. Applicants considering these programmes must indicate their intention to apply through their CAO form, no later than February 1. This is done simply by scrolling to the appropriate section on their account homepage and ticking a box. Applicants will then access the online form related to the appropriate programme. This section must be completed by March 1. These deadlines are extremely strict.


If an applicant is still not sure of the courses for which they would like to apply, there is still time. Firstly, don't panic or allow stress to prevent the decision from being made. Now is the time to tackle this problem. Speak to others, especially your guidance counsellor - make an appointment to discuss your options. Do this as soon as possible because available appointments will fill quickly at this time of year. Try to attend with a list of courses you are considering, or even courses you have considered but ruled out. All of this can be helpful. Make the best attempt you can at your CAO preferences now, but know you can make changes later. Best of luck!

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin

Important dates


Open days - Ballsbridge College of FE; Dun Laoghaire FE Institute; Inchicore College of FE; Sallynoggin College of FE

Info Evening - School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, DIT

Live CAO Q&A - NUI Galway


Info Evening - Colaiste Dhulaigh College of FE

Open Days - Rathmines College of FE; Whitehall College of FE

January 27

Open Day - Galway-Mayo IT

January 30

CAO Q&A (three days) - Waterford IT

January 31

Open days - Greenhills College of FE; Ballyfermot College of FE

Ad Astra scholarships (applications deadline) - UCD

February 1

Normal deadline - CAO

Late registration deadline - HPAT Ireland

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