College application procedures and entrance requirements

Introduction

You apply for almost all full-time undergraduate courses through the Central Applications Office (CAO). The undergraduate courses in the universities and institutes of technology include Higher Certificates - Level 6, Ordinary Bachelor degrees - Level 7 and Honours Bachelor degrees - Level 8. You can find more information about these qualifications in our document on third-level education in Ireland.

The CAO provides a handbook that lists all the courses on offer and gives information on how to apply.

There is no central applications body for Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. Students must apply directly to the individual colleges.

CAO applications for 2021-2022

CAO applications for the academic year 2021-2022 from Irish and other European Union nationals closes at 5.15 pm on 1 February 2021. Late applications are allowed up to 5.15 pm on 1 May 2021.

Changing your mind

You can change your course choices online up to 5.15pm on 1 February 2021, free of charge. Changes made from 5 February to 5.15pm on 1 March cost €10.

There is a further chance to change your mind, free of charge, from 5 May 2021 until 5.15 p.m. on 1 July 2021.

Late applications

Late applications are allowed up to 5.15pm on 1 May 2021.

You cannot be considered for HEAR or DARE or be assessed as a mature student, if you make a late application. There are also some restricted courses which you cannot apply for after 1 February 2021.

Courses in medicine

EU applicants to undergraduate courses in medicine in 2021 must take the Health Professions Admissions Test (HPAT). There is more information on the HPAT-Ireland website. You can find information about graduate entry programmes in medicine in 2021 on the CAO website.

College applications and Brexit

The Common Travel Area (CTA) allows Irish and British citizens to move freely and live in either jurisdiction. Under the CTA, Irish and British citizens can continue to access further and higher education on the current basis.

Irish students can apply to study in the UK using the current system. Further information on how British students can apply to study in Ireland will be provided.

Irish students' fees will be set at the same level as citizens in the UK for the 2020-2021 academic year and will continue for the duration of the programme they are registered on.

If you are an eligible Irish student studying in the UK or an eligible UK student studying in Irish higher education, you can apply for a student grant.

Common Travel Area rights can only be exercised by citizens of Ireland and the UK. If you are not a citizen of Ireland or the UK, you will not be able to exercise Common Travel Area rights.

Entry requirements

Points

Students who have taken the Leaving Certificate examination are allocated points for the results they get in their 6 best subjects at a single sitting of the Leaving Certificate. The points awarded depend on the level of achievement in the subject. You can use the points calculator on qualifax.ie to work out what points are awarded for any particular set of results.

The State Certificate of Calculated Grades offered to students for Leaving Certificate 2020 has the same status as the Leaving Certificates awarded to students in previous years.

The number of entry-level points needed for any course depends on the number of places and the number of applicants for those places so the entry level varies from year to year. Higher points are awarded for Higher-Level papers than for Ordinary-Level papers.

Under a pilot scheme operated from Leaving Certificate 2012, the seven universities, Dublin Institute of Technology (now part of Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin)) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland allocate extra bonus points for Higher-Level mathematics.

The CAO publishes the minimum points required for admission to courses as each round of offers is made. You can also check the points required in previous years.

If you have a disability

You may qualify for the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) scheme, which aims to improve access to higher education for school-leavers with disabilities.

Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)

The HEAR admissions scheme allocates a number of third-level places on a reduced points basis to school-leavers from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. To be eligible for the scheme you must meet certain criteria related to your financial, social and cultural circumstances. Read more in our document on the HEAR scheme.

Specific academic entry requirements

A student must also have the particular academic entry requirements (also called matriculation requirements) for the course he or she wants to take. You can get detailed information about the academic entry requirements from each university, college or institute.

University sector

Universities in Ireland are State-funded, but they are generally autonomous. There are 8 universities in Ireland. These include:

Technological sector

The technological sector includes technological universities (TUs) and institutes of technology (ITs).

Dublin, Tallaght and Blanchardstown institutes of technology joined together to form Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin).

There are 11 institutes of technology located around the country. In the Dublin area there is Dun Laoghaire. Outside Dublin they are Cork, Waterford, Tralee, Dundalk, Athlone, Galway and Mayo, Sligo, Letterkenny, Limerick, and Carlow.

On 1 January 2021, Cork Institute of Technology joined with Institute of Technology Tralee to establish Munster Technological University.

Colleges of education

Colleges of education provide specialised training for primary school teachers. There are specific minimum grades for maths and English. The entry requirements to specialised teacher training are set out by the Department of Education.

PLC courses

Places on Post-Leaving Certificate courses are not allocated on the basis of points, but applicants must be of Leaving Certificate standard. Most colleges interview candidates to determine their suitability.

Rates

The CAO application fees for 2021-2022:

Application Rate
Online discounted rate by 20 January €30
Online application by 1 February €45
Late online application by 1 May €60

You can change your course choices online up to 1 February, free of charge. Changes made from 5 February to 1 March cost €10.

The Change of Mind facility from 5 May to 1 July is free.

How to apply

Applying through the CAO: For participating higher education institutions (HEIs), you can apply online through the CAO.

Other applications: You should apply directly to the HEI (not through the CAO) in the following cases:

  • Postgraduate courses.
  • Entry to courses at post-initial-year level.
  • Short duration, one-term, part-time and occasional courses.
  • Re-admission to Dublin City University, Mary Immaculate College, Trinity College and University of Limerick.
  • Follow-on courses at the institutes of technology.
  • Any course not mentioned in the CAO Handbook.
  • Certain mature applicants.
  • Graduate/mature applicants to the Royal College of Surgeons.

Resident outside the EU

If you are or have been resident outside the EU you may have to apply directly to some HEIs. You need to contact the admissions office of HEIs to enquire whether you should apply through the CAO or directly to the HEI. It is very important to check application procedures for courses since errors may be difficult or impossible to rectify.

You should make your enquiries well before the closing date of 1 February, preferably not later than the previous 15 December.

Key dates for CAO applications for 2021-2022

5 November 2020 - Online applications open at 12 noon

20 January 2021- Closing date for online applications at discounted fee.

1 February – Normal closing date for applications

March and April – Interviews and portfolio presentations for most of restricted courses*

1 May – Closing date for late applications

5 May – Online change of mind facility opens

1 July – Final date for changing your mind about course selections on your previously submitted CAO form

Mid-July – Round A offers are made by the CAO (for mature students, candidates who deferred places, people who need visas and some others)

Early August – Round Zero offers are made by the CAO (for graduate entry medicine candidates and some other categories)

To be confirmed – Leaving Certificate results come out

To be confirmed – Round One offers are made by the CAO

To be confirmed – Closing date for acceptance of Round One offers

To be confirmed – Round Two offers are made by the CAO

To be confirmed – Closing date for acceptance of Round Two offers

To be confirmed – offers will be issued as necessary to fill any vacancies

*Some courses are restricted application courses. Such courses have early assessment procedures (sometimes as early as February) and must be mentioned in your CAO application in time for the relevant higher education institution (HEI) to arrange the procedure. This means that you cannot apply for such courses in a late application. The CAO publishes a calendar of these tests and interviews.

Where to apply

Central Applications Office

Tower House
Eglinton Street
Galway
Ireland

Opening Hours: Office Hours 9:30-17:00
Tel: (091) 509 800
Fax: (091) 562 344
Page edited: 4 January 2021