Billy Ryle: Time To Prepare For The CAO Deadline

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Billy Ryle says the CAO deadline is fast approaching for Kerry’s 2,750 third level college applicants, so students need to keep an eye on the timeline…

The Central Applications Office (CAO) application season gets underway in earnest this month for about 82,000 applicants competing for about 48,000 coveted college places.

Last year, 2,614 applicants to CAO were from Kerry (1,386 females and 1,228 males). That number could be as high as 2,750 in 2018. So it’s absolutely vital for college applicants to  keep a close eye on the timeline.

The CAO processes applications for admission to undergraduate courses in Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in Ireland, including the excellent Institute of Technology Tralee (ITT).

The courses are categorised as ‘Level 8’ or ‘Level 7/6’. The ‘Level 8’ category contains Honours Bachelor Degrees (HD). The ‘Level 7/6’ category contains Ordinary Bachelor Degrees (DG)/Higher Certificates (HC).

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The new Leaving Cert H/O grading system and CAO common points scale, which were introduced last year, proved to be very successful.

Except for a few minor glitches, which have since been ironed out, the introduction of the H (Higher) and O (Ordinary) grades went very smoothly.

In the new system, there was a welcome easing of points’ requirements for many courses. 2018 college applicants will benefit from the benchmark provided by last year’s cut off points.

Applicants now have a points’ total to aim for based on what happened last year. But as points’ requirements for courses fluctuate from year to year, predicting cut off points is an inaccurate science.

All you have to do is submit a single application to compete for one of the available third-level places. The interactive online application system, ‘Apply’ has made the process very straightforward and convenient for applicants.

‘Apply’ is user friendly and easy to follow, particularly as the CAO provides an ‘Interactive Demo’ to enable you make a trial application.

Almost all applications are now made via ‘Apply.’ The interactive online application service will remain open on the CAO website, until 5.15pm on 1st February.

Before you apply, study the CAO Handbook 2018, which explains how to apply for a third level college place.

But as the CAO Handbook 2018 doesn’t contain information about general academic requirements, specific course requirements nor content of courses, consult the colleges’ Prospecti and websites for that information.

Consider the potential career value of each course for which you are applying. 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 if you are to have a positive, fulfilling and successful college experience.


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

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• 20th January: apply by 5.15pm to avail of the online discount rate of €30

• 20th January: register for HPAT (Under Graduate Med.) test by 5.15pm. (fee €135)

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

• 1st February: normal closing date, at 5.15pm, for applications (€45 fee)

• 2nd February: register for GAMSAT (Graduate Medicine) test by 10.00am (fee €335)

• 4th February: register for MSAP (Mature Students) test by midnight ( fee €78)

• 5th February: online facility to amend course choices opens at noon (€10 fee)

• 24th February: HPAT-Ireland test takes place in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Sligo and Waterford on this date

• 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.

• 3rd March: MSAP test takes place in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Limerick

• 5th March: late online application facility opens at noon (€60 fee)

• 24th March: GAMSAT test 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 €60).

• 4th 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 €60) from those already attending a participating Higher Education Institution (HEI)

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

• 20th August: Round One, the issue of the main body of offers takes place a few days after the Leaving Cert Exam results become available

• 27th August: closing date, at 5.15pm, for accepting Round One offers

• Late August : Round Two offers are issued

• 17th 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/ Freelance Writer

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