CAO 2024: Slight dip recorded in number of students applying for college places

Point requirements for many courses climbed in recent years due to grade inflation and high numbers of applicants

The number of students applying for college places this year through the Central Applications Office (CAO) has dipped slightly this year.

Latest figures show there were a total of 77,049 applications following the CAO’s February 1st deadline, a drop of about 1.4 per cent compared to last year.

Education observers say the dip may help ease some of the upward pressure on points this year given that supply and demand of college places is a key driver behind increases in CAO points.

A more detailed breakdown of what study areas are in demand – due to be published over the coming weeks – will give a stronger indication of where points are more likely to rise and fall.


Points requirements for many courses have climbed in recent years due to a combination of grade inflation and high numbers of applicants.

Head of communications for CAO, Eileen Keleghan, said most applicants who have already applied to CAO will have opportunities to change their course choices in May or June for no extra charge.

“If an applicant has forgotten to apply for a restricted course, or if they are a mature applicant wishing to make changes to their courses, they should avail of our change of course choices facility which opens on the February 6th and is available until 5pm on March 1st for a fee of €10,” she said.

Ms Keleghan said a late application facility can be used by most applicants, however restrictions apply in the case of mature applicants.

This facility becomes available on March 5th and closes on May 1st at 5pm. The late application fee is €60 for online applications.

Applicants for access schemes – known as Hear or Dare – should have applied by the February 1st deadline, and must complete online forms by March 1st at 5pm.

The deadline for submission of supporting documents is March 15th at 5pm.

The CAO website contains a number of resources for CAO applicants including video guides, a copy of the CAO handbook, and resources for parents and guardians.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent