Completing Your CAO Application Form

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With CAO deadlines approaching we take a look at things to consider when completing your CAO Application form.

Activate Your Account

If you haven’t done it already, make sure you activate your account. You have until 20th Jan to sign up. At this stage it’s not about courses. You just need to open your account to activate it. It costs €30 to do this. If you miss this deadline it will cost you €45 to activate your account up till 1st February. This is the closing date for normal applications to the CAO. The closing date for late CAO applications is May 1st and will cost you €60. You can click here for a full list of dates to keep in mind.

Restricted Courses

If you’re applying for a restricted course, which means the course requires more than just points to apply for (eg audition, portfolio, interview, etc), it needs to be on your CAO list by 1st February.

Read the CAO Handbook

Make sure to read the CAO Handbook before you begin filling in the application form. This handbook takes you through the important requirements of your application, and highlights each of the upcoming, crucial deadlines.

In the student resources section of the CAO website, you can find the demo application facility and video guides to walk you through the application process.

OK, that’s a little bit of admin taken care of. Now let’s consider your options!

Completing Your CAO Application Form

It’s not about the points

Think about the subjects you enjoy, and are good at – this is a good place to start. Some students feel they have to take a course that they may not be interested in but because it matches their high points they feel they should accept it. Don’t feel the pressure to take a course just because it has high points. It’s all about doing the course you want to. The course that suits you. 


You can find out how much a course suits you by doing your research. It’s so important at this stage to find out about the course and the college providing it. Two colleges may offer the exact same course but when you start to do a bit of digging, you may find out why one suits you much more than the other. Examine the content of the course. Check out the modules. What are your options? 


Don’t be afraid to contact the colleges directly. Most colleges will have open evenings – online these days – where you can find out more about courses and often talk directly to lecturers and current students and ask questions about the course you are interested in taking.

Education Expos

Also there are education expos which are a terrific way to explore your options. In fact, a new online exhibition for school-leavers in Ireland Career Path Expo is taking place live, online, on Wednesday 10th & Thursday 11th March, 2021 and is the ideal event for 6th year students to get all the information they need about colleges, courses and CAO options.

It’s the course not the college

Many students get obsessed with going to a particular college and only pick courses in that college. Don’t make that mistake as you run the serious risk of doing a course you have zero interest in and maybe even end up dropping out. So again, do your research now and focus on courses that you want to do.

Fill it in

Fill in as many courses as you can on your application. Don’t just put in your Top 3 choices. If you can complete the application with courses you genuinely want to do that’s great but if not fill in as many as you can – again the emphasis is on courses you want to do.

Aim high

Don’t be put off by courses you think you wont get the points for. Put 2 or 3 of them at the top of your list and then list the courses in order of preference that you think you’ll get the points for.

Have a back-up option

Sometimes students list all high points courses or don’t get the points they thought they would and end up getting no offers. Include one or two courses that you know you will easily get the points for and is something you’d like to pursue. Don’t take the risk of getting no offers because you selected all the highest points courses.

Best of luck!



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