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CAO Handbook
Page 4 of 23


Step 1: Register on the CAO system in advance of the closing date to obtain your CAO application number

  1. Go online to and click on Apply.

  2. Enter your personal details carefully.

  3. Supply a valid email address - a valid email address is required for security and communications purposes. Failure to provide a valid email address may have serious consequences, for example, you may not receive an offer. Please note that CAO, and the HEIs to which you apply, may wish to communicate with you about your application and they may contact you by email, post or SMS text message.

  4. Select the qualifications and assessments section(s) that are relevant to you (there may be more than one relevant section – see page 5 for more information).

  5. Select your payment method. If you are paying by credit or debit card you will be redirected to a payment screen. All payment card transactions are handled by Global Payments. No payment card details will be stored on the CAO system. Once your payment has been processed you will be brought back to the CAO website to complete the remaining steps, including indicating that you have read the terms and conditions.

  6. Create a password. If you forget your password you can use the forgotten password facility. You will need your CAO application number, your date of birth, and the registered email address for your account to be able to automatically reset your password. If you experience difficulty resetting your password, email CAO using the Contact facility.

  7. You must then click on ‘Proceed with application’ to obtain your CAO application number. Your application details will appear on screen and you will also receive an email containing your CAO application number and your email verification code. If you do not receive an email with your application number your application has not been processed successfully.

Please Note: You should enter your name as it appears on your Birth Certificate or Passport. If you wish to apply under a different name, HEIs will require proof of identification at registration.


Table 1.1 Application dates and fees




Early online application (discounted)


20th January 2021 at 5:15pm

Normal online application


1st February 2021 at 5:15pm

Late online application – restrictions apply (see page 3)


1st May 2021 at 5:15pm

Change of Mind – restrictions apply (see page 3)


1st July 2021 at 5:15pm

Exceptional online late application (see page 21)


22nd July 2021 at 5:15pm

Be sure to complete any action well in advance of closing dates. You should avoid making an application close to a closing date. No extensions to closing dates will be allowed and all application fees are non-refundable.


Late applications are those which are received after 5:15pm on 1 February 2021. The closing date for late applications is 5:15pm on 1 May 2021, subject to the restrictions listed on page 3 of this handbook. The online facility for late applications opens on the 5 March 2021 at 12:00 noon – a fee of €60 applies.


If you applied to CAO in a prior year and you wish to re-apply for 2021, you must make a new application. In general, you do not need your old CAO application number as you will be provided with a new CAO number when you apply. In the case of applicants who are carrying forward DARE and/or HEAR eligibility from 2020, if you are unable to locate your 2020 CAO application number please email CAO via the Contact facility.