Friday 6 December 2019

Going to College: A simple guide to what the CAO application involves

A simple guide to what the CAO application involves

Email Aoife at aoifewalsh@; Twitter @edguidance (stock photo)
Email Aoife at aoifewalsh@; Twitter @edguidance (stock photo)
Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

This week we will look in detail at what is required of students in order to start their CAO application.

The first stage is to register and pay a fee. The fee is €30 if this step is completed by January 20 - rising to €45 for those who register between January 20 and February 1.

Applicants will be requested to submit personal details and pay the fee using a credit or debit card. If applicants do not have access to, or would prefer not to use a card, they can request a bank giro, which allows them to pay cash through their local bank. Applicants will then receive a CAO number, which they can use in conjunction with their date of birth, and a password (if they wish) to log into their account in future.

Personal Details

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This is a list of all the personal details that were entered during the registration process. However, it is very important not to rush past this section and to check that all details are correct.

Course Lists Level 7 and 8

Students have the opportunity to list the courses for which they wish to apply. These should be listed in genuine order of preference, as the CAO will presume this is how they were placed and offers will be made on this basis.

There are two lists that can be completed, one for Level 8 (honours degree) courses and one for Level 7/6 (ordinary degree/higher certificate) courses and applicants may enter 10 courses on each list.


The CAO requests that applicants are logged into their account when sending any queries or questions. This will allow for a record of contact to be maintained. This section contains this record as well as a record of information submitted to the CAO.

Susi Grant

Applicants are asked to indicate if they intend to apply for a Susi (Student Universal Support Ireland) grant. If an applicant thinks there is even a small chance they will apply for a grant they should complete this section. This will allow the CAO and Susi to share information about the applicant and is essential for the smooth processing of any grant payment later in the year.

While Susi does not open for applications until late spring, it is a good idea to tick this box on the CAO form. It won't matter if you don't actually apply for a grant.

Exemption from Minimum Entry Requirements

Any applicant who has an exemption from Irish or will be applying for a third language exemption from NUI should indicate their intention to do so here. Forms can be downloaded from

Qualification and Assessment Section

The detail of which schools the applicant attended, the year in which they sat the Leaving Cert, including any previous sittings, or alternative qualifications should be entered. It is especially important for repeat students to enter the exam numbers from previous Leaving Certs so that the CAO can find their results. This section also allows those with alternative qualifications, such as FETAC, degrees or GCSEs, to enter this information.

Matures, Disability/Specific Learning Difficulty & Higher Education Access Route HEAR

The last three sections bring applicants to the supplementary information forms for mature applicants and HEAR & DARE applicants. Each of these will be the subject of future columns. However, it is important to note that applicants must indicate their intention to apply for any of these programmes no later than February 1.

The website has an excellent demo on the application process.

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

Q: Can I apply for any courses in UCD if I do not have a third language on my Leaving Cert?

A: Often students choose to not continue the study of a European language to Leaving Cert. These students know that this can reduce their options as NUI colleges require a third language for entry to the majority of their courses.

For entry in 2020, UCD has removed this requirement for their school of Social Studies. This means that courses that were previously not open to students without a third language are now available to them. This includes DN700 Social Science, DN710 Economics, DN720 Psychology and DN750 Social Policy and Sociology.

This adds to the other UCD faculties that do not currently require a third language, including Nursing, Engineering and Agricultural Science.

Email Aoife at aoifewalsh@; Twitter @edguidance

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