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Opinion: The CAO process can be daunting, so bear these tips in mind...

It’s an important step towards securing their college and course of choice, so give it the time it needs.

Image: Shutterstock/Jeff Wasserman

WHILE COMPLETING THE CAO form can be a daunting task for students, it is an important step towards securing their college and course of choice. To help guide students and parents through the process, I’ve complied some top tips for the application process…

DO check the basic entry requirements for each of the courses you are interested in

Some courses will have language requirements or may require a certain grade in Maths as well as a points requirement. These details will be found in college prospectuses and on sites such as and Also look out for practical courses that might require portfolios or interviews.

DO apply online, as opposed to the paper format

The online form is significantly cheaper and it does not allow applicants to make mistakes by entering a course code that does not exist. If you are applying online get someone to look over the application before you send it in. But if you are applying with the paper form, get a teacher/parent to check that everything is filled in properly before you post them off.

DON’T leave it to the very last minute even with the online form, as computers can crash!

With everything else that is going on in this busy time as you prepare for mock examinations it is easy to get stressed out and make mistakes. Dedicate an hour to sit down somewhere quiet that will allow you to fully concentrate on your application.

DO fill in all 20 spaces provided

Each CAO applicant is given ten Level 8 choices and ten Level 6 and 7 choices to give you as much choice as possible. If you are unsure what the difference is between level 8, 7 and 6 take a look at the National Framework of Qualifications website that gives a clear breakdown of all the levels.

DO put course choices in order of preference

It is very important that you put what you really want to do first and not what you think you’ll get the points for. Dream big and imagine the best that you can do.

DON’T forget the “Change of Mind” facility

This is available from 5 May to 1 July and allows the student to amend their CAO as many times as they want. Sometimes when students get their mock examination results it can change their mind about what direction they wish to go after the Leaving Cert.

DON’T forget the “Available Places” option

If, for whatever reason, you mess up your CAO application or don’t do as well as hoped in the Leaving Certificate not all hope is lost. If any places remain unfilled in particular courses after all offers have been made and the waiting lists of applicants meeting minimum entry requirements have been exhausted, such vacancies will be advertised.

Richard Murphy, schools liaison officer for Griffith College. For information on the direct application courses available at Griffith College Dublin, Cork and Limerick, please log on to

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