My daughter is stressed about her CAO choices. Is time against her?

An initial list must be submitted by February 1st but this can be fully amended later

My daughter, who is sitting the Leaving Cert in June, has been getting progressively more anxious as she still has no idea what she wants to do in college. This anxiety is affecting her schoolwork. She tells us she only has a few weeks to submit her CAO application. Is this right?

Firstly, there is no need to panic. The normal closing date for CAO applications is February 1st. Many are under the impression that students need to have selected their courses by this date. That’s not the case for the vast majority of programmes. In most cases, applicants can still adjust their choices right up until July 1st.

Having said that, I would encourage all those considering applying for a college place in Ireland this year not to dawdle. If you submit your application by January 20th, this will reduce the cost from €45 to €30.

Once an applicant completes their application, they immediately receive their CAO number by email and on their mobile phone. This enables the applicant to log into their CAO account and complete the remainder of the application process.


They will then be requested to identify the second-level school they attend; whether they wish to apply for Dare (Disability Access Route to Education) if they have a designated disability that has negatively affected their education; or whether they wish to apply for Hear (Higher Education Access Route) if they are from a socially disadvantaged background.

All applicants have until February 1st to submit their initial course choices

Applicants can also state if they will be be applying for a maintenance fee grant and are happy for the CAO to share their data with Sushi, the grant awarding authority.

Having completed the application by February 1st, any Hear or Dare applicant has until March 1st to complete the online elements of the application and March 15ah to post any appropriate paperwork to the CAO offices in Galway.

As stated above, all applicants have until February 1st to submit their initial course choices.

Is your daughter interested in seeking a place on a course listed on her CAO handbook as “restricted”, meaning there is an assessment process separate and operating alongside the Leaving Cert points score? Typical courses under this heading are in the areas such as art, design, music, dance and theatre. If so, she will need to place any such course on her list of course choices by February 1st. (If she misses this deadline, she can add such a course by March 1st by paying an additional €10. )

If none of the above apply to your daughter, the only other date she needs to be concerned with is the deadline for final course choices on July 1st. She must list a course or courses by February 1st, but has is free to submit a completely different final list later.

In short, there is no need to be stressed with over seven months to go before having to finalise course choices.