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CAO Handbook
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The purpose of the Central Applications Office (CAO) is to process centrally applications for undergraduate courses in Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and to deal with them in an efficient and fair manner. The HEIs retain the function of making decisions on admissions.

This handbook has been prepared to provide information about the CAO application process. By reading this handbook carefully you will find out the information that you need to assist you with your application.

There are many avenues to be explored when you decide to make the journey into higher education; for the majority, that journey will involve a CAO application. It is important to note, however, that there are alternative access routes to higher education, other institutions offering further and higher education, and situations where you may have to apply to an institution directly.

You should allow ample time to research your course choices carefully, and check for matriculation and minimum entry requirements - you will not receive an offer of a place on your chosen course if you do not meet the minimum entry requirements. You can find out more information from the prospectuses and websites of the institutions, at Open Days, and from your guidance counsellor.

For some institutions, fees or a student contribution may be payable - you should refer to the HEI website for fees information and go to or for information about finance and grants.

If you have questions for CAO that are not answered in CAO literature or on the CAO website, or if you do not understand any instruction that you receive from CAO, please contact us using the Contact form on the website


Before applying to CAO it is important that you note the following information:

  • You, the applicant, are responsible for ensuring that an application is submitted complete, correct and on time.

  • In any one year, you may not present more than one application.

  • You must examine the contents of this handbook carefully.

  • CAO and HEIs may assume that anyone who is able to quote your CAO application number is authorised to make changes to your application or act on your behalf.

  • Certain minimum computing facilities are required for online applications (e.g. the latest version of Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome) and applicants are advised to use a personal computer when applying to CAO in order to reduce the potential for applicant error.