Nov Guide

So, we are into November, the month when action can begin on third level choices with the CAO opening for registration this month. In this guide, I will cover what registration means as well as some detail on restricted courses which have different methods of assessment and closing dates. There are some changes coming to the CAO but these have not yet been activated, a note on this later.

CAO Registration 

On 5th November, the CAO opens for registration and initial course selection. From 5th November to 20th January, the CAO offer an early bird fee of €30 and from 21st January to 1st February, the fee increases to €45. Registration closes on 1st February at 5.00pm.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a hard deadline for registration and some courses call Restricted Courses, see detail below for these courses.

In essence, the CAO are looking to know who will be applying this year for all higher level education and give this period of time to allow students to get registered. For normal (non-restricted) courses, this not a hard deadline for course choice and changes can be made as many times as wanted during this phase.  The early fee is to encourage students to register early and not leave it until the last minute which is a good policy to maintain throughout the whole process.

If registration does not occur before 1st February, the applicant is considered a late applicant and may be excluded from consideration for selection of some courses later on if those courses are oversubscribed. As per my last guide, I would encourage all parents to sit with their Leaving Cert teenagers in a quiet place to register. The form is a small bit tricky and may have questions that the teenager is unsure how to answer correctly.

If they are registering early, say in November or even to the 20th of January, they do not need to have any firm decisions made unless it is, of course, for a restricted course. They can put in just one course at this point and return to the application at any time to put in more courses up until 1st February or later during the change of mind phase (5th May – 1st July).

My strong recommendation is to register early, avail of the reduced fee and be comfortable that the job is done well on time to save on stress at a later stage.

Restricted Courses

There are a number of courses that are not assessed entirely on the Leaving Cert results, with the college or university using an additional method of assessment. These courses must be on the application by 1st February.

The main categories of assessment are:

  • Portfolio – for courses that have a design focus: interior design, Fine Art, etc
  • Personal Statement & references – some community work courses
  • Health screening – some dental courses
  • Psychometric testing – Medicine (HPAT), some Nursing courses
  • Audition/application/interview – music, drama

To ensure that you know whether a course is restricted or not, double check on the CAO Courses page and from there click through to the course detail page on the website of the institution where the course is being run to get the exact detail.

If your teenager is choosing a restricted course, they will need to take immediate action to understand the additional requirements. If a portfolio is required, they will need to submit a specified number of drawings. Or they may have to apply for a psychometric test such as HPAT. Quite an amount of preparation may be required for these assessments and, anecdotally, many students may have spent the summer between 5th and 6th year preparing for these. That is not to say that it is too late to choose one of these courses now but with the already high work load of the Leaving Cert year, preparing for these will also increase the burden for the student.

Some courses that are both restricted or non-restricted will require Garda Vetting where the work experience element of the course will bring the student into direct contact with vulnerable persons. Generally speaking, these will be in health and education sectors but there may be others. It will be indicated in the course details if this is a requirement and will be required for submission prior to uptake of the course in the September of the year of entry.

For every course, whether it is restricted or not, check the entry requirements onto that course as there may be other requirements such as particular subjects in the Leaving Cert or minimum grades achieved before selection will be considered.

Upcoming Changes to the CAO

A few weeks ago, the Minister for Further and Higher Education announced changes to the CAO website. From 5th November, other career options not applied for through the CAO will be displayed. The purpose of this is to encourage students to consider other pathways to careers such as Apprenticeships and Further Education courses. The thinking behind this move is that there is a high dropout rate after 1st year of college (15% in 2015) and, in particular, among males with lower academic attainment levels. Other pathways may suit these individuals better and still provide them with a very rewarding career. Another reason is that if more individuals took other routes, it would reduce the pressure on the numbers applying for higher level courses and maybe reduce the points that student have to get.

These new changes are not yet viewable, being introduced on 5th November, the day of new registrations for the upcoming academic year. When these changes are viewable, I will put more information onto the course platform in the November module during the month.


On 5th November, registration for this year’s CAO applications will open, closing on 1st February. Ensure your teenager applies in good time and take the time to register carefully. Sit with them to answer all the questions properly to eliminate mistakes and potential disqualification or the entire application process. The 1st of February is a hard deadline for registration.

The 1st of February is also a hard deadline for restricted courses. These are courses that require additional methods to assess suitability for that course along with the Leaving Cert. This assessment may be in the form of a portfolio, audition, interview, psychometric testing or other. Each restricted course will provide these details.

New changes are up and coming on the CAO website, check back during November to see further information here.

If you have any questions regarding this or any part of the Leaving Cert Year, remember to bring them along to our live Q&A session later in the month.