Apply for your CAO registration number today

For the 70,000-plus potential applicants to the CAO this coming year, and particularly for the almost 50,000 Leaving Certs, who are currently considering their application, the uncertainty created by the closure of all schools and colleges has given rise to much anxiety, stress, and uncertainty.

What is certain is that the CAO has set next Wednesday January 20 as the final date by which applicants can register this year for €30. After that date, and until the standard closing date of Monday February 1, the application fee increases by €15 to €45.

Your first step therefore is to register your intention to seek a CAO college place immediately. If you are interested in getting a place in an Irish university, institute of technology, teacher-training college, or private college, offered through the CAO application process, go to by January 20 and make an application, paying €30 by credit or debit card.

All the CAO wants at this stage is your personal details, including name, address, phone numbers, any disability/specific learning difficulty, country of birth, nationality, email address, payment details, and any post-second level (PLC ) educational or other qualifications you have.

When you have done this, you will get your CAO identification number. At this point you may – or may not – feel able to indicate which courses you wish to be considered for next September.

You can do this now, and if you are a mature applicant over 23 years of age you need to indicate your course choices by February 1.

Alternatively, as a standard applicant under 23 years of age you can give your best guess of your course choice list now, knowing that you can amend them up to the July 1 deadline.

You have the freedom to return to your application when the option to amend your course choices opens up in the first week of May and remains open until the end of June, by which time the Leaving Cert, in whatever format it is eventually offered, is completed.

The final date by which you may amend your course choices, or indicate them for the first time, is the July 1 final deadline for all such changes.

If you now wish to explore the full range of all CAO courses on offer in 2021, the most comprehensive source of information on courses is on

Applicants who wish to secure designation under either the HEAR or DARE programmes, based on economic disadvantage or as a result of have a designated disability, should proceed with those elements of their applications immediately by ticking the relevant boxes on the online application process.

In an era where Covid-19 has disrupted so much of our working lives, securing the appropriate documentation from the relevant statutory and medical authorities may take you very close to the deadlines of March 1 to complete the online aspects of the application, and March 15, by which any relevant documentation has to have arrived by post at the CAO offices in Galway.

I will provide comprehensive advice to all readers on all aspects of college applications in next week’s special supplement, but in order to minimise the cost of the CAO application to you, and to encourage HEAR and DARE applicants to get moving immediately with securing the relevant supporting documentation, I am providing you with the relevant information upon which to act today.


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