I have my CAO offers, what next?


The first round of CAO offers are out today. This is a highly significant day for thousands of students across the country who discover whether they have been offered a place on their desired third-level course. Once again, it is very important to know what your options are as you make these important decisions.

I’ve been offered the course I wanted!

If you’re happy with your CAO offer simply accept it as instructed by the CAO.

I didn’t get offered the course I want.

If you’re unhappy with your CAO offer today there are still some options available to you…

  • Round 2 offers:

Remember that you may get your preferred choice in Round 2.

  • CAO Vacant Places on the CAO website:

Every year there are a large number of CAO courses available which have more places than qualified applicants. If you wish to apply for one of these, you may do so whether or not you have already made a CAO application or received an offer. You will have to fill out a new preference list, entering the new course you wish to be considered for, as well as any courses from your original CAO application that you would still like to be considered for in future rounds.

  • Private Colleges:

While the CAO processes many applications to private colleges, there are courses available that are not in the CAO system and often accredited by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC). If you wish to explore these options, check the qualifax.ie website and make personal contact with the Private College that you are interested in.

  • PLC/Further Education Colleges:

There are Further Education Colleges located all over the country. Courses are mostly offered at a FETAC Level 5, which can be completed in one year. They offer a wide variety of courses including pre-university courses. Many colleges still have places available. Check careersportal.ie/plc or qualifax.ie.

  • British Universities/UCAS Clearing

At this time of year many UCAS applicants are going through a process called Clearing, where any places that are still available can be applied for by any student, whether they have already applied through UCAS or not. The earlier the application the more options, as places fill on a daily basis. If you are interested in applying for one of these places, you should start by researching the available courses on UCAS.com. You can search by keyword, course, institution and even county or area. Check the entry requirements on your choice of course and contact the admissions office of the institution to see if they are likely to accept you. Once you receive an informal offer, you can then fill in the details of the course on the online application so that UCAS can process a formal offer.


European applications (EUNICAS) is an independent European University application support service that facilitates UK and Irish students who are looking to study in Europe. They can be contacted at www.eunicas.ie.

  • Repeating:

O.K., so you have got no offer or you have got an offer but you don’t want to accept it. Presumably, you will also have looked at the “vacant places” on the CAO website and you will have checked out if there is any PLC course available that interests you or any course in the Private Colleges or through UCAS or EUNICAS. If you have come up with a blank after all this, and your position does not improve either as a result of second round offers or upgrades in re-checked scripts, then repeating may be the right option for you.

Who makes a good candidate for repeating the Leaving Certificate? Well number one is someone with a huge motivation and determination to do better next time. I have seen many pupils increase by over 100 points simply because they were in the right mental state. However, if you were someone who just drifted through your courses last year, you must be sure that you are not just going to do the same again next time.

Thinking about it logically, you should do better. You will be a year older, you will have been through the courses before (except English which changes), you will get much more practice at doing previous exam questions, improving your examination technique, etc.

Reflect carefully on the work you did last year. Only you can answer if you are capable of doing considerably better next year by repeating. Every year we see many students making this difficult choice and reaping the benefits in 9 short months.