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Third Level Application Procedures

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 2013 applications from Irish and other European Union nationals is 5.15 pm on 1 February 2013. Late applications are allowed up to 5.15 pm on 1 May 2013.

Decisions on offers of places are normally made in August and September, after the results of the Leaving Certificate have come out. A detailed schedule of the offer rounds is in the CAO handbook.

Changing your mind

It is possible to check and amend your online application free of charge up to 5.15 p.m. on 31 January. 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.

Courses in medicine

EU applicants to undergraduate courses in medicine (pdf) 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 (pdf) on the CAO website.

Entry requirements


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.

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 4-year pilot scheme operated from Leaving Certificate 2012, the seven universities, Dublin Institute of Technology 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.

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.

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.

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. In 2 of these subjects, students must have achieved grade C at Higher Level. Most courses also require a third language. 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 and either Irish or another language. In 2 of these subjects, students must have achieved grade C at Higher Level. You must also have a pass in maths (Foundation Level is acceptable for some but not all courses). There may be additional course requirements for specific courses.

Trinity College Dublin: The minimum entry requirement is 6 Leaving Certificate subjects, with grade C on 3 Higher-Level papers and a pass in English, maths and another language. Students can also have a combination of 6 subjects with grade C on 3 Higher-Level papers and a pass 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, with a grade C on 2 Higher-Level papers and a pass in maths and either English or Irish. There may be additional course requirements for specific courses.

Institutes of technology

Each 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, with a grade C in 2 subjects at Higher Level and grade D in 4 other subjects, including maths and either Irish or English. There may be additional course requirements for specific courses.

Levels 6 and 7 (Higher Certificate and Ordinary Degree): The minimum entry requirement is 5 Leaving Certificate subjects at grade D, including maths and either Irish or English. There may be additional course requirements for specific courses.

Colleges of education

Colleges of education provide specialised training for primary school teachers. They require a minimum of 3 grade Cs on Higher-Level papers, including Irish, and three grade Ds. There are specific minimum grades for maths and English.

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.


There is a discounted fee of €25 for people applying online by 20 January 2013


Application Rate
Online discounted rate by 20 January €25
Paper or online application by 1 February €40
Late online application by 1 May €50
Late paper application by 1 May €80


You can change your course choices online up to 31 January, free of charge. Changes made from 5 February to 1 March cost €10.

The Change of Mind facility from 1 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. The opening date for the 2013 online application process is 5 November 2012.

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 the following 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.

American College, Dublin National College of Ireland
Athlone IT National Counselling Institute of Ireland

Carlow College, Carlow

NUI Galway

Dublin Business School

NUI Maynooth
Dublin City University Portobello College
Dublin Institute of Technology Royal College of Surgeons
Griffith College, Dublin Shannon College of Hotel Management
IT Carlow Tipperary Institute
IT Sligo Trinity College Dublin
IT Tralee University College Cork
Milltown Institute University College Dublin
  University of Limerick

You should make your enquiries well before the closing date of 1 February, preferably not later than the previous 15 December. If you are applying to any other HEI you should apply through the CAO.

Key dates for CAO applications for 2013/2014

5 November 2012- Online applications open at 12 noon

20 January 2013 - Closing date for online applications at discounted fee.

1 February – Normal closing date for applications

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

1 May – Closing date for late applications

5 May (expected) – Online change of mind facility opens

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

Early 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)

Mid-August – Leaving Certificate results come out

19 August (expected) – Round One offers are made by the CAO

26 August (expected) – Closing date for acceptance of Round One offers

28 August (expected) – Round Two offers are made by the CAO

4 September (expected) – Closing date for acceptance of Round Two offers

Up to 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

Central Applications Office

Tower House
Eglinton Street
County Galway

Opening Hours:   Office Hours 9:30-17:15

Tel:   +353 (0)91 509 800
Fax:   +353 (0)91 562 344

information provided by citizens Information Board © reproduced under Licence


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