CAO / I didn’t get the offer I wanted — what now?


There are many options for those who have no offer or are disappointed

Malina Rafique, Limerick Graduation with a Bachelor of Architecture and Claire Normoyle, Newmarket on Fergus, Co Clare who graduated with a Bachelor in Law at the University of Limerick1
Malina Rafique, Limerick Graduation with a Bachelor of Architecture and Claire Normoyle, Newmarket on Fergus, Co Clare who graduated with a Bachelor in Law at the University of Limerick

CAO Available Places

Colleges fill vacant places, through a process known as “available places”, on the CAO website.

If an applicant has not received a CAO offer or has received an offer but would prefer a course they see on ‘available places’, they may apply to be considered in a future CAO round. Even students who did not make a CAO application this year can now apply for one of these courses, for a fee of €40.

Applicants must meet the course entry requirements.

Private Colleges

There are some well-known private colleges with a strong tradition of offering courses, at both honours degree and ordinary degree/higher certificate level, in a range of areas including business, psychology, law, computing, fashion and media.

While these colleges offer some courses through the CAO, they also invite direct application for others. There are about 100 direct entry courses, in both private institutions and universities, listed on the website.

Students are often attracted by the fact that the colleges are smaller than universities and institutes of technology. Students can also use the courses search function on the website: selecting ‘direct entry course’ to limit the search to find these courses.

If students are interested in pursuing study at a private college they should contact the colleges. Fees are approximately €5,000, but tax relief at 20pc is available. Colleges include Dublin Business School; Griffith College, Dublin, Cork and Limerick; Dorset College, Dublin; Independent Colleges, Dublin; IBAT, Dublin city and Swords.


UCAS is the UK equivalent of the CAO. However, requirements for entry into courses can be very different from what’s needed in Ireland. Even if a student has not applied for college in Britain or Northern Ireland, it is possible to submit an application through Clearing, a process through which places that have not yet been filled are open to application.

Some courses will show Irish Leaving Cert requirements, especially if the institution has a long tradition of accepting Irish students. If they are not shown on a college website, the admissions officers are normally able to provide information over the phone.

Study in Europe

Universities all over Europe offer courses through English, even in countries where English is not the main language. Many courses have lower entry requirements than something similar in Ireland, as well as low fees. Some are receiving applications at present. For more information, students should see or


Candidates may decide to appeal a grade(s) they have received at Leaving Cert, in the hope that they will receive an upgrade and achieve the points necessary for entry to a preferred course.

While it is not essential, some students will have decided to view an exam script(s) to check for possible errors in the marking, and have a viewing slot this weekend. The candidate must be present and may also be accompanied by another person, preferably a teacher, or a parent.

Marking schemes are made available on the day of the viewing, to assist understanding in how the paper has been marked. At the viewing centre, candidates may request an AP1 form and should use this to outline any reason why they think they were unfairly marked. This means that the examiner reviewing the script will have to address each of these issues when re-marking, and also address them when outlining the reasons for awarding an up-grade or not as the case may be.

Writing and photography equipment is not permitted in the viewing hall so students will have to make their notes on a rough piece of paper and fill in the AP1 form, outside:

If an error in how the paper was marked is discovered, leave the room and use the rough paper to record the number of the question and answer, and the reason for disputing the mark – and repeat this as often as may be necessary.

After handing back the exam paper and marking scheme, the student should transcribe the notes from your rough sheet of paper onto the AP1 form and request that the AP1 form should accompany the appeal application.


It is possible to do much better second time round but is equally possible to slide into old habits and achieve a result that is only slightly better or even lower than the first sitting. Anyone considering this option should contact a guidance counsellor for advice.

Remember, all CAO points must come from one sitting of the exams but it is possible to repeat subjects in order to meet specific entry requirements, such as an “honour” in maths.

An important consideration is the new Leaving Cert grading system/CAO points scale for 2017. One change will be the awarding of 37 points for a mark of 30pc-39pc on a higher level paper.

New minimum entry requirements are also being introduced for certain courses, only limited details of which are yet available. In one example, the common requirement for a HC3 (55pc-59pc) in maths for e.g. engineering, will become a H4 (60-69pc), the equivalent of an existing HC2 (60-64pc) or HC1 (65pc-69pc). So, for some courses, students may face higher entry requirements in 2017, although there will also be examples where they will fall.

Where to repeat? Returning to their own school is normally at the discretion of the principal. If the school does not have a dedicated repeat class (which most do not), a student may find they have outgrown the school environment.

Students may also consider dedicated “grind” schools, where the entire Leaving Cert course is generally taught over one year. This may be the most expensive option. It is well worthwhile checking with local education and training board (ETB) as many colleges of further education offer a “repeat” year.

Irish Independent

Author: Francis O' Toole

Francis O' Toole is a Educational Psychotherapist & Guidance Counsellor. I set up this blog page to help students gain as much information as possible to be able to make right choices and decisions regarding their career options. I believe that we will be very successful in our careers if we follow what we enjoy.

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