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CAO Handbook
Page 2 of 23


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 using the websites and prospectuses of the HEIs, 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.

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 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.

  • You are responsible for the security of the personal data that you may have access to (for example, receive in the mail, write down, store, print, view in a browser, download etc.). Your CAO account contains your personal data, so you must ensure you do not disclose your password and do not leave your account logged in when you are away from the screen. CAO will communicate with you by email to the email address you have registered on your CAO account. Emails frequently contain personal data, so you must ensure you have secured your email account and do not leave your account logged in when you are away from the screen. CAO may send items to you in the mail - ensure that you check for, read and store mail from CAO carefully and securely. Personal data includes the data that you provide to CAO directly such as that entered as part of the main CAO application form, supplementary application forms such as DARE/HEAR and supporting documentation. Personal data also includes other data such as your CAO application number and, for example, Leaving Certificate examination data which is linked to your application.

  • Certain minimum computing facilities are required for online applications (e.g. the latest version of 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.

  • CAO cannot accept any responsibility for loss or hardship arising from your failure to avail of correction opportunities.