Need help filling out your CAO form? Here's some tips and advice

In advance of the February 1 deadline, CAO communications officer, Eileen Keleghan, gives advice to potential applicants who have not yet started their application
Need help filling out your CAO form? Here's some tips and advice
The CAO normal application deadline for undergraduate courses in the Irish Higher Education Institutions is Friday, February 1 at 5.15pm

IT is important that applicants start their application well in advance of the final deadline in order to avoid any issues which may arise if they leave their application to the last minute.

The Central Applications Office (CAO) normal application deadline for undergraduate courses in Irish Higher Education Institutions is Friday, February 1 at 5.15pm.

Applicants who have not yet completed their application are urged by the CAO to do so immediately, particularly mature applicants, applicants for the HEAR or DARE schemes, or applicants who wish to apply for a restricted course.

This first step in the application process is very straight-forward. Applicants need to provide their identification and contact details, and select the qualifications and assessments section that is relevant to them.

They are not asked to enter their course choices until after they have obtained their CAO application number, and they will have opportunities to add, remove and change the order of their courses right up to the July 1 at 5:15pm, however applicants should be mindful that some restrictions do apply.

On completing this section and paying the application fee (€30 up to 20 January at 5:15 pm and €45 up to February 1 at 5:15 pm) applicants will then receive their CAO application number. From there they can log in to their CAO account via the My Application facility to edit their application, provide additional information required to support their application, and to add their course choices.

Our website contains a number of guides and supports for applicants which should make the application process easy to navigate, including a ‘Demo Application Facility’ and step-by-step video guides talking applicants through the process of obtaining their CAO application number and editing their CAO account.

Applicants who have already submitted their CAO application have up to 5:15pm on February 1 to add, remove or re-order courses free of charge. If an applicant is considering applying for a restricted course they should make sure to include the course details in their application before this deadline. If they do not apply for a restricted course before the deadline an additional fee of €10 applies for the use of the Change of Course Choices facility, which is available to registered applicants only from February 5 to March 1 at 5:15pm.

The CAO Change of Mind facility opens on May 6. This facility allows applicants the opportunity to add, remove or change the order of their courses as many times as they like (and free of charge) right up to July 1 at 5:15 pm, however it is important to note that restrictions apply.

Applicants are reminded that they should list their course choices in genuine order of preference.

To apply to CAO go to and click on ‘Apply’.

Eileen Keleghan of the CAO
Eileen Keleghan of the CAO

The following are some of the common errors and things to look out for, or consider, when making a CAO application:

Check dates and personal information carefully

Entering an incorrect date of birth or an invalid email address. This may result in an applicant missing out on important email correspondence and possibly getting locked out of their account as they require their date of birth, application number and password to log in. Applicants must also remember to enter the verification code (when prompted) to verify their email account.

List all qualifications

Not including details of all relevant qualifications and assessments. There are eight boxes presented in this section of the CAO application form and some applicants may need to select more than one box to inform CAO of all relevant qualifications.

Some applicants will also have to send supporting documents to CAO within ten days of making an application.

Entry requirements

Not checking for minimum entry requirements or taking note of restrictions before applying for a course.

Order of preference

Not listing courses in genuine order of preference. Applicants should list their courses based on their personal preference and not on assumptions about points or examination performance.

If the applicant lists their courses in genuine order of preference then they will receive an offer of the course highest up on their list that they are deemed eligible for.

Careful planning

Applicants should avoid leaving applications and changes to the last minute.

They need to allow sufficient time to deal with unexpected problems e.g. internet connection failing, a payment not processing, or getting locked out of their account because they have forgotten their password and/or entered an incorrect date of birth or email address.

Applicants must also ensure that all documentation is received by CAO by the deadlines stated in the CAO Handbook.

Checking all details

A Statement of Application Record is sent out to all applicants in May. Applicants should check that all of their personal, examination, exemption and course choices details are recorded correctly, taking particular care when checking the Leaving Certificate examination number. Failure to do so can result in an applicant missing out on a place at the relevant Offer Round.

List all exemptions

Not informing CAO of exemptions. Please note that applicants seeking an exemption from NUI must now tick a box on the CAO application form as well as applying to the NUI for the exemption.

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