CAO Preparation

The Central Applications Office (CAO) (Irish: An Lár Oifig Iontrála) is the organisation responsible for overseeing undergraduate applications to colleges and universities in the Republic of Ireland. See www.cao.ie.

This page highlights some important points for European Baccalaureate students to know before preparing a CAO application.

NOTE: while this summary is here to help potential European Baccalaureate applicants to understand the procedure for a CAO application, it is essential to check the CAO home website https://www.cao.ie regularly for all specific details and requirements which are continually updated by the CAO.

The CAO is in regular communication with colleges with regard to supply and demand and there can be some course changes and restrictions or exceptions to applications registered for some colleges at any stage during the year, therefore adjustments are made accordingly on the CAO website.

On the CAO website, there is a very comprehensive handbook which explains the full process of applying for a course in Ireland:

SEE - https://www.cao.ie/handbook.php

Currently the 2018 handbook is still on the website. It will soon be replaced by the 2019 handbook, so please use the 2018 handbook as a reference guide only.

The CAO Handbook contains the following sections and all of them are important and no part should be read in isolation from the rest, but those sections highlighted on the list below in red are particularly relevant to European Baccalaureate students. A short description of each is given at the end.  

Contents list of CAO Handbook:

  • CAO Handbook
  • Important Changes to CAO Handbook1
  • Summary of Major Stages of the CAO Application Process
  • Introduction
    • Applicant’s responsibility2
    • Restrictions3
  • Applying to CAO
    • Application Dates and Fees
    • Late Applications
    • Reapplying to CAO
    • Categories of Qualifications and Assessments4
    • Applying for HEAR and DARE5
    • Interviews and Assessments
    • Exemptions6
    • Sending Supporting Documents to CAO7
    • Applying for a Maintenance Fee Grant (SUSI)
    • Introducing your Course Choices
    • Statement of Application Record
    • Change of Mind
    • Exceptional Late Applications
    • Changes to your Personal and Examination Information

1Important Changes to CAO Handbook:

Many course changes can occur throughout the year and these are recorded in this additional document to the CAO Handbook published in November. They are: 

1. Courses not in the 2018 handbook but for which applications may be made.

2. Courses in the 2018 handbook which have been CANCELLED:

3. Miscellaneous Changes (e.g. course name has been changed)

Applicants must keep checking this additional document for updates throughout the year.


2Applicant’s responsibility

Before applying to CAO it is important that you note the following information:

  • You, the applicant, are responsible for ensuring that an application is submitted complete, correct and on time.

  • In any one year, you may not present more than one application.

  • You must examine the contents of this handbook carefully.

  • CAO and HEIs may assume that anyone who is able to quote your CAO application number is authorised to make changes to your application or act on your behalf.

  • Certain minimum computing facilities are required for online applications (e.g. the latest version of Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome) and applicants are advised to use a personal computer when applying to CAO in order to reduce the potential for applicant error.


3Restrictions

Certain courses are Restricted-Application courses. Restricted courses normally require additional assessment procedures, e.g. the submission of a portfolio, an oral assessment or interview, or a written assessment – restricted courses are identified in the handbook by the words “Restricted - see page 3” on the same line as the restricted course.They have early assessment procedures which may start as early as February. 

http://www.cao.ie/index.php?page=restrictedcourses&bb=restrictions

The following video explains restricted courses:

http://www.cao.ie/index.php?page=video

While these restricted courses are in a minority, any European Baccalaureate students who are applying for one or more of them will need to be aware of the possibility that they may have to travel to Ireland for an oral assessment or interview (perhaps they may have to pass a music test or do some demonstration of their ability to perform a particular skill necessary for a course) and they may have to plan well in advance for a trip to Ireland. It is strongly recommended that students check the relevant university or college prospectus for details.

Students applying for the HEAR and/or DARE schemes (see summary of these schemes below), come under the restrictions category.


4Categories of Qualifications and Assessments

The majority of applicants through the CAO are in the category of the Irish Leaving Certificate, but those who are not are under the category named:

OTHER SCHOOL LEAVING EXAMS (e.g. Baccalaureate, Scottish Exams, pre-1985 Irish & UK exams, Leaving Exams outside of UK & Ireland, Leaving Cert Applied, Level 3 BTEC, GNVQs, VCEs, Irish Matric Exams, etc.)

As part of the alternative category above, along with the others listed above, European Baccalaureate students will be asked to do the following;

·         Provide details of other school leaving exams and the years they were completed.

·         Describe the examinations briefly, including details of the National or European framework level where relevant

·         Submit certified A4 photocopies of any certificates, (with translations if the certificate is not in English or Irish).

If you are sitting your examinations in 2019, please submit certified photocopies of your results to CAO as soon as they become available


5Applying for HEAR and DARE

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a third level alternative admissions scheme for school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, resident in the Republic of Ireland. Details on www.accesscollege.ie

The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is for school leavers with a disability under the age or 23 as of 1 January 2019, who have been educationally impacted as a result of that disability. Applicants to DARE can present with an Irish Leaving Certificate, A-Levels and other EU qualifications.

To be eligible for DARE, you must meet both the evidence of disability criteria and educational impact criteria. Full details and information which you should use to help you apply for the scheme are available at www.accesscollege.ie.

If you wish to disclose a disability or specific learning difficulty, click on the 'Modify Disability/SLD (and DARE Application) Status' button on the online CAO application form (when it is available online) and follow the instructions provided.

DARE is not applicable to all colleges. This does not mean that these colleges do not provide supports for students. Contact the college directly to discuss the types of supports you require. The International Office of the university will help.


6Exemptions

If you wish to seek exemption from minimum entry requirements (e.g. exemptions from Irish or modern language requirements) then you should contact the Admissions Offices of the HEIs for further details (in the case of NUI institutions, see www.nui.ie for details). Applicants must make arrangements for exemptions each year they apply. For more information go to the Student Resources section of www.cao.ie


7Sending Supporting Documents to CAO

As soon as your European Bacalaureate results become available, a certified photocopy of your results (translated into English if necessary) must be sent to the CAO address:

Central Applications Office, Tower House, Eglinton Street, Galway, Co. Galway, Ireland by post. CAO will not accept emailed/faxed copies of results.

The CAO communicates with applicants via e-mail, text and post at different stages throughout the year.

There are many key dates throughout the year relating to CAO applications, statements, offers and closing dates for particular courses which require portfolios, for mature students, students with disabilities or other special considerations. Many dates have yet to be finalised for 2018 -2019, so at present, the link to many of the dates gives an estimated time, e.g. before end of May or early July.

Applicants must keep checking the dates lists in the CAO website as it is updated throughout the year. They are too numerous to publish here.

http://www.cao.ie/?page=correspondence_schedule&bb=importantdates

The dates lists are organised in the following six categories:

  • Important Dates
  • Timetable of Events
  • CAO Correspondence Schedule
  • College Open Days
  • Tests and Interview Dates
  • Qualifying Exams (Special Maths Exams)

The CAO form is a quite a short and straightforward form which is completed online.

NOTE: it is advisable to go to the ‘Demo’ Application Form on the CAO website. This allows you to practice filling out the CAO form, before you begin your actual application. The ‘Demo’ will be live once the CAO application process for 2018-2019 opens in early November 2018.

The CAO form has 3 main sections:

  1. Personal Details

  2. Qualifications and Assessment

  3. List of Course Options

​Applicants who are taking the European Baccalaureate, will tick the option: 'Other School Leaving Exams' and fill out the corresponding questions

  • The most important thing for applicants to remember is to list their choices in order of preference. 
  • Students can not, under any circumstances, change their preferences after they have received an offer.

Making choices:

It is important to know the difference between these levels, described on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) website:  http://www.nfq-qqi.com/

  • Level 6 or Higher certificates are generally of 2 years’ duration

  • Level 7 or Ordinary degrees are generally of 3 years’ duration

  • Level 8 has Honours degrees only which are generally of 4 years’ duration

Institutes of Technology offer courses at Levels, 6, 7 and 8, and Universities offer Level 8 courses only. There are opportunities to progress from a Level 6 Higher certificate to a Level 7 Ordinary degree and onwards to a Level 8 Honours degree within or across different educational institutions. If students choose to start at Level 6 or 7 (if, for example, they need a lead in year to improve their level of English) it is advisable to discuss the progression routes with a guidance counsellor.

On the CAO form, there are 2 lists on the course choice section:

  • One list is for Level 8 courses

  • The other list is for Level 6/7 degree programmes

Applicants are strongly advised to fill out BOTH lists.

The following video will explain the 2 lists – Level 8 and Level 6/7 in more detail 

http://www.cao.ie/index.php?page=video

The two most commonly used websites for course research in Ireland are:

Qualifax: https://www.qualifax.ie Ireland’s national database providing information on a wide range of courses in further and higher education. Qualifax provides brief information on entry requirements, duration of course, course content, opportunities for Erasmus+ placements,  further study/ career opportunities.  

CareersPortal: https://www.careersportal.ie is a private company which also provides information on an extensive range of courses and careers.

Both websites contain a Self- Assessment section which can assist in identifying personal interests and strengths.

NOTE: it is important not to rely on any one website, but rather to cross-reference the information from a variety of sources. It is important to check for matriculation and minimum entry requirements - you will not receive an offer of a place on your chosen course if you do not meet the minimum entry requirements. Always contact the college directly if you require any specific information on your course or its entry requirements, matriculation or conversion of European Baccalaureate scores to CAO points.

In order to gain entry to a higher education course in Ireland, an applicant must have the number of points required for the course they have chosen and the applicant must also meet the entry requirements/ matriculation requirements set down by the HEI. 

If there are more applicants for the number of places on the course, the places are allocated to those students with the highest points, therefore the number of points required for a particular course may vary from year to year depending on the numbers of students who choose it as their first option. A random selection procedure operates if there is a larger number of students with the same number of points competing for places than there are places available. 

If not all students who are offered places accept them, another round of offers is made to students with lower points and so on in further rounds until all places are filled.

As the points drop with each round, students who may not have reached their first preference on the first round may be offered it in the second or third rounds.

The majority of Irish students present their Leaving Certificate examination results through the CAO for calculation into college entry points.

For European Baccalaureate (EB) students, the CAO converts the EB scores to points according to the entry requirements criteria and sends out an offer to the student.  

For information about how points are calculated for EU/EFTA, please visit the Student Resources section of the CAO website www.cao.ie and go to Applicant Scoring.

There you will find a document named: Agreed entry requirements criteria for EU/EFTA Applicants (other than Irish Leaving Certificate)

2019 - http://www2.cao.ie/downloads/documents/Guidelines-EU-EFTA.pdf

There is a section on the equivalences between the European Baccalaureate and the Irish Leaving Certificate. However, this document is currently for 2019 college entry, and is to be used for reference only until the 2020 document is uploaded, as there may be some changes to requirements.

You should also consult the Admissions Office of the colleges you are applying to through the CAO.

The contact details for the Admissions Office in each HEI is listed in the CAO Handbook and on the individual HEI website. 

Some useful videos

The following video will explain how to accept an offer.

http://www.cao.ie/index.php?page=video

Please consult CAO with any queries you have regarding your CAO application.

http://www.cao.ie