ALMOST 150 courses -- many in key areas such as engineering, computing and business -- already have empty places because they don't have enough qualified applicants.
And more courses are expected to join the vacancies list on the Central Applications Office (CAO) website over the next few days.
The available courses cover a wide range of disciplines, from herbal science at the Cork Institute of Technology, to wine and beverage management at the Institute of Technology, Tallaght.
But many are also in the crucial areas of engineering and computing.
Dublin City University (DCU), for instance, has 11 courses with vacancies in these disciplines, while NUI Mayn-ooth has vacancies on four engineering courses.
The Cork Institute also has vacancies in software development and computer networking. Vacancies have been reported on business courses at both the public and the private colleges as well.
At honours degree (Level 8) there are vacancies on 54 programmes and there are about 95 courses at level 6/7 certificate/ordinary degree level.
The Dundalk Institute of Technology has vacancies on 14 courses that include agriculture, building, applied cultural studies and veterinary nursing.
Potential applicants can see the up-to-date list of vacancies, and apply, on the CAO website -- www.cao.ie -- from today.
The vacancies have arisen despite the record number of applications to the CAO and the record number of offers this year.
Another record was set yesterday after 16,289 applicants accepted offers of college places online by 6.15pm.
Thousands more will accept their offers online today, as the number of acceptances being handled on paper drops dramatically.
Meanwhile, the National Parents Council (post-primary) helpline was as busy as ever yesterday with many long calls handling issues such as deferring entry, more detailed information about courses and queries about the chances of getting a higher preference on the second round.
Helpline organiser Rose Tully said that, once again, most of the calls were made by parents -- usually mothers -- rather than prospective students. The service is co-sponsored by Eircom and the Irish Independent, and the calls are dealt with by members of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.
Fine Gael Senate Education spokesperson Fidelma Healy Eames advised students to think hard about the suitability of the course before accepting or rejecting second and third round offers.
"Reports indicate that about one-third of students drop out of higher education during or at the end of their first year in college -- a move which is often the result of a lack of timely advice or incorrect advice being given," she added.