As many students are busy preparing for their mocks at the moment, worrying about the CAO is bound to bring extra stress.

However, students are urged not to worry unnecessarily. Applicants who have registered ahead of the January 20 early bird deadline at 5.15pm will have received their CAO number and they can add/change courses up February 1, also at 5.15pm. For those who have not yet registered, you can do so on and the discounted application fee of €30 applies up to the early deadline of January 20.


There is a fee of €45 thereafter for those who register after and before the normal closing date of February 1. Students will be asked to submit personal and contact details, school details, indicate if you wish to apply for the HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) and/or DARE (Disability Access Route to Education) schemes, for exemptions from minimum entry requirements, for the maintenance grant and to input the courses you are interested in.


For students who are completely undecided at this stage, don’t worry. You can revisit your choices when the Change of Mind Facility opens on May 5 until July 1, at 5.15pm. In the meantime, the following steps will help:


  1. Think about the type of person you are, your aptitudes, interests, qualities, strengths, subjects or tasks that you enjoy.
  2. Talk to those who know you well such as parents, teachers, your guidance counsellor and to those who have studied the courses you are interested in.
  3. Research the detail of the courses by checking out all the modules you will study over the duration of the course. This detail can be found on the college websites.
  4. Check the entry requirements for the course, which must be met if you are to be considered eligible.
  1. There are some restricted courses which must be included before February 1, so applicants are encouraged to consult the CAO handbook to check these courses.
  1. Put your choices in genuine order of preference. This is the golden rule of filling the CAO form. Points are based on supply and demand therefore they rise and fall every year and students won’t know the cut off points for 2020 until the first round offers are issued in mid-August.


  1. The key tip at this stage is make sure not to miss any of the deadlines, all of which are available on Students applying for the HEAR and DARE schemes must complete these forms by March 1 and send supporting documentation by March 15. See for more details of both schemes and speak to your guidance counsellor. Application Information Sessions for both schemes take place nationwide tomorrow (Saturday, January 11) with Institute of Technology, Tralee hosting the event for Kerry from 10am-2pm.





Information on key dates see



Niamh Dwyer is a guidance counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore and is PRO of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She can be contacted on