Billy Ryle: CAO Deadline Draws Near For Kerry’s Third Level College Applicants

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Guidance Counsellor, Billy Ryle, looks at an important few weeks ahead for prospective third level students…

With CAO applications season in full swing during January, it’s shaping up to be a very promising year for the 80,000 plus applicants seeking a third level college course.

There should be more than 48,000 places available across Level 6 (Higher Certificate), Level 7 (Ordinary Degree) and Level 8 (Honours Degree).

Applicants have until Saturday, 1st February at 5.15pm to submit a completed application form. Use the remaining weeks wisely. Do your course research.

Continued below…


Carefully consider your course choices. Play to your strengths. Follow your heart but also keep an eye on the jobs market in a buoyant economy.

Applicants need to be aware of key dates and the important tasks to be done in the weeks ahead. The 2020 CAO online application remains open until 1st Feb.

Open the CAO interactive online account via “Apply” on, by 20th Jan to get a discount application rate of €30. After that the fee increases to €45 until the 1st Feb deadline. The closing date for online Change of Course Choices, which is free, is also 1st Feb.

Course choices and preferences may be changed as often as desired, free of charge, between 5th May and 1st July.

If you submit a Change of Mind option, it cancels all the previous course choices, which you have submitted. The two categories (Level 8 and Level7/6) are completely separate from each other for this purpose.

Any restricted application course, added for the first time via a Change of Mind won’t be considered unless it shares the same assessment procedure with a course you had applied for by 1st Feb.

County Kerry is now proportionately sending more students to higher education than any other county.

Many of these young people have to leave home to pursue their courses. That option is becoming more difficult due to spiralling accommodation costs and a totally inadequate higher education grants system.

There is anecdotal evidence of many young Kerry students making a daily commute to Limerick or Cork as they can neither find nor afford even the most basic accommodation.

Most of Kerry’s 2020 CAO applicants can’t even consider entering course choices in Dublin on their application form. Financially supporting an offspring in Dublin for an academic course is beyond the means of most rural families.

Higher education is very expensive. The financial burden is somewhat eased for students who qualify for partial or total state funding.

The maximum standard maintenance grant payable to students whose college is 45 km (28mls) or more from home is only €3025.

In addition, means testing of applicants for grants is so restrictive that thousands of students in higher education are ineligible for any financial aid. Capping the gross annual income level for grant eligibility at €39,875 ignores spiralling living costs.

Students who are ineligible for grants need about €12,000 annually to maintain themselves away from home or about €4000 if living at home.

The annual student contribution of €3000 must also be paid. Many college students do up to 15hrs of work part-time and/or depend on their parents to make ends meet. Indeed, 60% of parents get into considerable debt to cover college costs.

Any Political Party hoping to enter Government after the next election, must commit to easing the financial burden on hard pressed families by introducing a 3rd level grants system which is fit for purpose. Grant amounts must be brought into line with the cost of living.

The annual family income level for standard grant eligibility must be increased to €50,000 from the current level of €39,875. It’s high time for any Government worth its salt to provide equality of access to higher education for all young people of the nation.


• 25 bonus points are awarded for Higher Level Maths for H6 or above if Maths is one of the six subjects being counted for points calculation

• Foundation Level Maths: F1 and F2 are valued at 20 and 12 points, respectively

• LCVP: Distinction, Merit, Pass are valued at 66, 46 and 28 points, respectively


• 20th Jan: apply by 5.15pm to avail of the online discount rate of €30
• 20th Jan: closing date to register for HPAT (Under Graduate Med.) test
• 1st Feb: online change of course choices (free) closes at 5.15pm
• 1st Feb: normal closing date, at 5.15pm, for applications
• 1st Feb: closing date to register for GAMSAT (Graduate Medicine) test
• 2nd Feb: closing date to register for MSAP (Mature Students) test
• 5th Feb: online facility to amend course choices opens at noon (€10 fee)
• 22nd Feb: HPAT-Ireland test takes place
• 1st March: closing date, at 5.15pm, for amending course choices
• 1st March: completed online HEAR/DARE forms must be submitted by 5.15pm
• 5th March: late online application facility opens at 12.00 noon (€60 fee)
• 7th March: MSAP test takes place
• 15th March: HEAR/DARE supporting documentation must arrive in CAO by 5.15pm
• 21st March: GAMSAT test takes place
• 1st May: closing date, at 5.15pm, for late applications
• 5th May: online change of mind facility (free) opens at 12.00 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

• Billy Ryle is a Career Guidance Counsellor/Educational Commentator

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