It’s A Big Fortnight For Students As CAO Deadline Looms

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Guidance Counsellor, Billy Ryle, gives advice to students as deadlines approach for county’s 2,250 third level college applicants…

With more than 80,000 applicants – about 2,250 from County Kerry – expected to compete for about 49,000 coveted Central Applications Office (CAO) college places, it’s vital to be aware of the key dates and to make the right moves in the weeks ahead.

The CAO online application “Apply” remains open until 1st February but the early bird discount fee of €25 closes on this Friday, 20th January at 5.15pm.

After that the fee increases to €40. The closing date for online Change of Course Choices, which is free, is 31st January.

This year’s applicants to the Central Applications Office (CAO) also face the known unknowns of a new Leaving Cert grading system and a new CAO common points scale.

The old ABCD grades have been abolished in favour of H (Higher) and O (Ordinary) grades. In the new system, grades will cover multiples of ten percentage points compared to five in the old system.

625 points will continue to be the maximum CAO score but the new irregular common points scale will result in a much greater spread of points in 2017.

In order to encourage more students to sit higher level papers, points will be awarded to all candidates who achieve at least 30% in any subject at higher level.

Conversely, the maximum number of points available to a candidate, who is scored on six ordinary level subjects, has been reduced from 360 points to 336. No points will be awarded for a percentage less than 40% in a subject at ordinary level.

Because of the new Leaving Cert grading system, the minimum entry requirements and specific course requirements for third level colleges have been readjusted to the H and O grades.

The common consensus is that average CAO points’ scores will drop slightly with a concomitant easing of points’ requirements for college courses. I’m attaching a health warning to that prediction until the results from the 2017 Leaving Cert class are published in August.

Applicants should be careful not to apply for any course without first consulting the Prospectus or the web site of the institution offering that course.

Study the content and the potential career value of each course for which you intent to apply. Play to your strengths as you do your course research during the next few weeks. Jot down your personal career profile, including such variables as ability, achievement, application, aptitude, ambition, values, interest and personality (5AVIP).

It’s important to select courses that suit you in order to have a positive, fulfilling and successful college experience.


• 20th January: apply by 5.15pm to avail of the online discount rate of €25

• 20th January: register for HPAT (Undergrad Med) test (fee €130) by 5.15pm.

• 31st January: online change of course choices (free) closes at 5.15pm

• 1st February: normal closing date, at 5.15pm, for applications (€40 fee)

• 2nd February: register for GAMSAT (Graduate Medicine) test (fee €325) by 10.00am

• 5th February: register for MSAP (Mature Students) test (fee €78) by midnight

• 6th February: online facility to amend course choices opens (€10 fee) at noon

• 25th February: HPAT test in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Sligo and Waterford.

• 1st March: closing date, at 5.15pm, for amending course choices

• 1st March: completed online Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)/Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) forms must be submitted by 5.15pm.

• 4th March: MSAP test takes place in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Limerick

• 6th March: late online application facility (€50 fee) opens at noon

• 25th March: GAMSAT takes place in Cork, Dublin and Limerick on this date

• 1st April: HEAR/DARE supporting documentation must arrive in CAO by 5.15pm.

• 1st May: closing date, at 5.15pm, for late online applications (fee €50).

• 5th May: online change of mind facility (free) opens at noon

• 31st May: Statement of Application Record sent to all applicants before this date

• 1st July: change of mind facility (free) closes at 5.15pm

• Early July: Round A offers of places are issued to certain categories of applicants (mature, deferred, etc.)

• 22nd July: exceptional closing date, at 5.15pm, for late applications (fee €50) from those already attending a participating Higher Education Institution (HEI)

• Early August: Round Zero offers of places are issued to certain categories of applicants (FETAC, Graduate entry, etc.)

• 21st August: Round One, the issue of the main body of offers takes place a few days after the Leaving Certificate Exam results become available

• 28th August: closing date, at 5.15pm, for accepting Round One offers

• 31st August : Round Two offers are issued

• 6th September: closing date, at 5.15pm, for accepting Round Two offers

• 18th October: Offers will continue to be issued to fill any vacancies, which may arise, until 5.15pm on this date

• Billy Ryle is a Career Guidance Counsellor and freelance writer

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