Tips for Filling out the CAO Form for Parents and Students

Happy New Year and it is the time of year again for CAO applications. The CAO deadline of February 1st 2015 is fast approaching. The CAO application process can be stressful for students and parents. Here are a few tips that can ensure you do it effectively and with as little stress as possible:

  • Apply early and online at The early deadline of January 20th at 5:15 pm allows you to apply at a discounted rate of €25. The normal applica-tion fee is €40 and the cut-off date is the February 1st at 5:15pm
  • Keep in mind that sometimes there is a CAO rush and the system can get over-loaded, so apply early. Early application helps minimise last minute errors
  • Consider the entry requirements that are needed. Some courses require a particular grade in honours maths, a certain science subject or a third language. Check out the entry requirements at or at or at College websites will also contain useful information
  • Think about your choices carefully. What were your impressions of a course or college during an open day or visit? The atmosphere and the environment your choose to learn in is important
  • Conduct informational interviews with people who have pursued the career you are considering. If, for example you are interested in social work, then speak to a social worker and ask them what the pros and cons are of their job. If at all possible, work shadow a person in your desired field
  • Talk to students who are studying the courses you are interested in. In particular, talk to third or final year students and get a sense of the level of commitment required and the content involved. Approach the college directly. Speak to the Heads of Departments and lecturers about the course content and prospects after graduation. Generally, they will be happy to assist you
  • Most colleges and universities have a record of ‘graduate destinations’. Call Admissions or the Careers Services and find out what previous graduates went on to do. What are the general employment prospects for those who studied the course you are interested in? Does your undergraduate degree or course require a postgraduate qualification in order to improve career possibilities?
  • Closely examine the course prospectus. See if your courses allow for a year of study abroad. A second language and international experience are greatly valued by employers. Check also to see if your course involves work experience. Having relevant work experience enhances your future job prospects
  • Consider each of your 20 choices wisely. Use all of your choices: 10 choices at Level 8, and 10 choices at Levels 6 and 7. Remember, you can always successfully climb the ladder of qualifications
  • Include some courses with lower points. Each year, 1,000 students with 500 points receive no offers at all!
  • Keep in mind that some courses have ‘restricted application’. These courses involve assessments in March or April. For example, art and design courses involve portfolio evaluations and music degrees require music tests. Applications to nursing for mature students are also restricted and involve an aptitude test. Medicine is also restricted and requires a HPAT examination
  • Place all your courses in your genuine order of preference. It is a MAJOR mistake to base your choices solely on the points of previous years or your expected grades
  • Also, refer to the ‘Alert List’ on the CAO site. This list shows courses that have been both added and removed from the CAO handbook
  • Lastly, don’t panic. You have the opportunity to correct or amend your application between February 5th and March 1st if you want to include a re-restricted course. Once again, there is a change of mind facility for ‘normal applications’ from the 1st of May to the 1st of July. Therefore, there are plenty of opportunities to rethink your choices and order of preferences

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you well in your choices.

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