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What is the CAO?


The Central Applications Office (CAO) is the central contact point for your application for undergraduate courses in Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). All essential information about decisions on admissions to undergraduate courses are made by the HEIs who instruct CAO to make offers to successful candidates.

6th November 2023 (12:00) CAO online application facility opens.
CAO Change of Course choices facility opens
20th January 2024 (17:00) Apply online by this date to avail of the discounted application fee of €30.
1st February (17:00) Normal closing date for applications.
6th February (12:00) Online facility to amend course choices becomes available (€10 Fee)
Before 15th February Paper Applicants will be sent a Statement of Course Choices
(Contact CAO if you do not receive it)
Registration Window:
Nov 23 - 2nd Feb 24
HPAT Test - Undergraduate Entry to Medicine
Test sitting:
16th-25th Feb 24
HPAT Test - Undergraduate Entry to Medicine
1st March (17:00) Closing date for amending course choices
Closing date for completion of mature section of application form
Closing date for final completion of online HEAR/DARE forms
5th March (12:00) Late application facility opens.
15th March (17:00) Latest date for HEAR/DARE supporting documentation to arrive in CAO
Test window:
March 2024
GAMSAT Test - Graduate Entry to Medicine
Registration window:
Mature Nursing registration - Information available at
Test window:
Mature Nursing Test
1st May (17:00) Closing date for late applications
7th May (12:00) Online Change of Mind facility becomes available (Free)
Before 15th May Late Paper Applicants will be sent a Statement of Course Choices
(Contact CAO if you do not receive it)
Before End of May Statement of Application Record sent to all applicants
(Contact CAO if you do not receive it)
1st July (17:00) Change of Mind closes
TBC Round A offers for certain Non-Standard categories of applicants - applicants receive an offer by e-mail and SMS text
TBC Round A acceptances closing date.
22nd July (17:00) Exceptional closing date for late applications for those already attending a participating HEI
TBC Round 0 offers for certain Non-Standard categories of applicant - applicants receive an offer by e-mail and SMS text
TBC Round 0 acceptances closing date.
TBC Current year Leaving Certificate results issued
TBC Round 1 offers available from 14:00 online - also issued by e-mail and SMS text.
Applicants who have not received an offer will receive a `Statement of Application` e-mail.
TBC Available Place facility opens
TBC Round 1 acceptances closing date.
TBC Round 2 offers available online.
TBC Round 2 acceptances closing date.
TBC Round 3 offers available online - applicants will also receive an offer notification by e-mail and SMS text.
TBC Round 3 acceptances closing date.
TBC Round 4 offers available online - applicants will also receive an offer notification by e-mail and SMS text.
TBC Round 4 acceptances closing date.
TBC Round 5 offers available online - applicants will also receive an offer notification by e-mail and SMS text.
TBC Round 5 acceptances closing date.
TBC HEIs begin registration
TBC Results of Leaving Certificate appeals released
TBC Offer Season Ends.
5th November 2024 CAO application facility opens for 2025 applications

Getting into popular CAO courses can be difficult if you don't gain the necessary points in the Leaving Certificate. The good news is there are a wide range of opportunities which will enable you to continue your education beyond school.


Private Colleges

There are a number of private or independent colleges which, as well as offering courses through the CAO, also offer programmes for which students may apply directly to the college involved. Many of these courses are validated by bodies outside the State, such as universities in the UK.


Search courses here


CAO Available Places

If you do not receive an offer from the CAO, you can check out the list of vacant places on the CAO website under the heading “Available/Vacant Places”. These are programmes which have not received sufficient applicants to fill the number of places on offer from the college in question. People who have not applied to the CAO may make an application online for a vacant place. If you have applied already, you simply go into your record in the CAO website and place the vacant course at the top of your CAO application list (free of charge). Applicants for available places must meet the normal entry requirements for the course in question.


UCAS Clearing

Clearing is how UK universities and colleges fill any places they still have on their courses between July and September each year. It's an ideal way for you to find another course. It is similar to CAO Vacant Places.


Post-Leaving Certificate Courses (PLC)

A PLC course will provide you with an excellent opportunity to gain entry to a university or an Institute of Technology, as it will allow you to apply again to the CAO the following year, presenting the result of your PLC course as your method of entry. Many students who earn distinctions in their exams can progress on to higher education.


Students apply directly to PLC courses. Minimum academic qualifications for these courses are normally five passes at Leaving Certificate. These courses are designed as a step towards skilled employment and, are closely linked to industry and its needs.


You can search for PLC courses here


Tertiary Courses

A Joint Tertiary Degree is a joint further and higher education degree programme. Students commence their third level experience in further education with the Education and Training Board but will complete the remainder in higher education colleges. It varies from 1 to 2 years studying in the Further Education & Training College, depending on the course. 


Applying for a Joint Tertiary Degree is simple: you can apply directly through the course information page of the HEA website. Alternatively, you can get in touch with the appropriate contact person detailed in the course information section.


Applications will be accepted through the course page on the NTO website  from February 1st until late September.


Do I need the same leaving certificate points as I would need for CAO entry?

You do not need the same leaving certificate points. Different course programmes have different entry requirements where students may be required to submit proof from other agencies to show you are eligible and meet the entry requirements for the course you are applying for. Please refer to the course information section in the course page of our website for these details. The course provider will be able to advise you of any additional paperwork which is required for your application. The contact details for the course coordinator can be found in the course page.


The Joint Tertiary Degree provides guaranteed access, subject to passing exams, to a degree programme that starts in further education and concludes in higher education. Also, you do not need to apply through the CAO for a tertiary degree course.


Studying abroad

More and more Irish students are going abroad to study. Entry requirements are very reasonable, programmes are taught in English and the fees are surprisingly low. Even as late as August there are still places available on courses in countries such as the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Spain, Italy and Norway. 


You can find more information here.



An apprenticeship is an opportunity to earn a salary as an employee while gaining valuable knowledge and skills. You will learn both on-the-job and in a college setting while being paid throughout.


Find out more here.


Repeat Leaving Certificate courses

Repeating the Leaving Cert may not be right choice for everyone who falls short of being offered a CAO place. Students must ask themselves “Can I really give it more the second time around?” If the answer is most definitely 'yes', then repeating is the right choice. For hard-working students who have fallen short in their points, repeating may not yield better results. These students are strongly advised to consider the options listed above.