Monday 15 July 2019

Going to College: Getting your head around the differences in entry requirements between colleges

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

College entry requirements can be confusing. I like to try and compartmentalise different requirements and use little rules of thumb to help me remember.

For example, you need to do at least one science subject in the Leaving Cert  to be eligible for entry to a science degree; primary school teaching needs higher level Irish;  there are no courses where business is a requirement.

When it comes to languages, it is more complex. Taking, or not taking, a language at Leaving Cert level can have implications for college entry, although it is not the case that one must take a language to go to college or even to go to an NUI college.

With the CAO deadline looming, the question of entry requirements and language waivers is coming up again and again in my day-to-day work.  

While each course will have its own specific requirements, there are some general requirements and waivers that apply for each institution. 


Both Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick require students to pass English and another language,  which can cause problems for students who do not take Irish or a modern European language at Leaving Cert level.

It is possible for students who do not take Irish to be exempt from these requirements in certain circumstances.

Students not taking Irish or any other language as a result of a learning difficulty may apply to the admissions office at Trinity or UL to be exempted from this requirement.

Forms are available from and

NUI Colleges

NUI institutions include University College Dublin (UCD), University College Cork (UCC), NUI Galway, Maynooth University (MU) and the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI).

These colleges all require the same subjects for matriculation and these include Irish, English and a modern European language.

However — and this is where there can be some confusion — the requirement to present a modern European language has been removed from the schools of engineering, science and nursing at these colleges. 

Maynooth University has also removed the requirement for business.

In certain circumstances, applicants can apply for a waiver of the language requirement for Irish, the European language, or both.

This may include being born outside of the state, completing a portion of education outside of the state or having a learning difficulty or disability.

Students must apply for these exemptions by printing and completing the relevant forms from and returning them to the NUI offices in Merrion Square, Dublin.

They must also ensure they have indicated their intention to apply for a language waiver in the relevant section of the CAO form.

One form is sufficient for all NUI institutions.

DCU, TU Dublin, & institutes of technology

Dublin City University, (DCU) TU Dublin and the institutes of technology require entrants to present with maths and English or Irish. 

Therefore, there is no need to apply for an exemption for Irish if applying to these colleges.

Students who do not study a modern European language are also free to apply to these institutions.

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

Irish Independent

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