College application procedures and entrance requirements
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. There is no central applications body for Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. Students must apply directly to the individual colleges.
The CAO provides a handbook that lists all the courses on offer and gives information on how to apply. The closing date for 2020 applications from Irish and other European Union nationals was 1 February 2020. Late applications were allowed up to 1 May 2020.
The CAO first round offers for the academic year 2020-2021 will be made from 2pm on Tuesday, 11 September 2020.
You must reply to your first round offer by 3pm on 16 September 2020.
A detailed schedule of the offer rounds is on the CAO website.
CAO applications for 2020-2021
The CAO accepted applications for the 2020-2021 academic year from 5 November 2019 at 12 noon. The closing date for 2020-2021 applications from Irish and other European Union nationals was 5.15 pm on 1 February 2020.
Changing your mind
It is possible to check and amend your online application free of charge up to 5.15 p.m. on 1 February. From 5 February to 5.15 p.m. on 1 March, you can amend your course choices for a fee of €10.
There is a further chance to change your mind, free of charge, from 5 May to 5.15 p.m. on 1 July .
Late applications are allowed up to 5:15pm on 1 May 2020.
Courses in medicine
EU applicants to undergraduate courses in medicine in 2020 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 2020 on the CAO website.
Exam grading scheme
A new grading scheme for the Leaving Certificate was introduced in 2017. The
Common Points Scale used by the CAO to determine entry into higher education
institutions was also revised. You can read
more on transition.ie
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 find detailed information on the websites of the universities, institutes of technology and colleges of education.
National University of Ireland: The minimum entry requirement for the universities that are part of the National University of Ireland (NUI) is 6 Leaving Certificate subjects, including English and Irish. You must get at least grade H5 in 2 subjects and grade O6 or H7 in 4 subjects. There may be additional course requirements, such as maths, for specific courses.
University of Limerick: The minimum entry requirement is 6 Leaving Certificate subjects, including English, maths and either Irish or another language. You must get at least grade H5 in 2 subjects and grade O6 or H7 in 4 subjects. There may be additional course requirements for specific courses.
Trinity College Dublin: The minimum entry requirement is 6 Leaving Certificate subjects, with grade H5 on 3 Higher-Level papers and grade O6 or H7 in English, maths and another language. Students can also have a combination of 6 subjects with grade H5 on 3 Higher-Level papers and grade O6 or H7 in English, Latin and another subject not a language. There may be additional course requirements for specific courses.
Dublin City University: The minimum entry requirement is 6 Leaving Certificate subjects. You must get at least grade H5 in 2 subjects and grade O6 or H7 in 4 subjects. The subjects must include maths and either English or Irish. There may be additional course requirements for specific courses.
Each technological university or institute of technology can set its own entry requirements. However, the general entry requirements for Level 6, 7 and 8 courses are set out below.
Level 8 (Honours Degree) courses: The minimum entry requirement is 6 Leaving Certificate subjects. You must get at least grade H5 in 2 subjects and grade O6 or H7 in 4 subjects. The subjects must include maths and either English or Irish. There may be additional course requirements for specific courses.
Levels 6 and 7 (Higher Certificate and Ordinary Degree): You must get at least grade O6 or H7 in 5 subjects. The subjects must include maths and either English or Irish. There may be additional course requirements for specific courses.
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 and Skills.
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.
The CAO application fees for 2020/2021 were:
|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.
Details of the opening of applications for 2021-2022 will be announced by 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 2020-2021
5 November 2019 - Online applications open at 12 noon
20 January 2020 - 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
18 July – Round A offers are made by the CAO (for mature students, candidates who deferred places, people who need visas and some others)
8 August – Round Zero offers are made by the CAO (for graduate entry medicine candidates and some other categories)
7 September – Leaving Certificate results come out
11 September – Round One offers are made by the CAO
16 September – Closing date for acceptance of Round One offers
23 September – Round Two offers are made by the CAO
25 September – Closing date for acceptance of Round Two offers
October – 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