How To Apply For An Undergraduate (Bachelor's) Degree 

You will need to apply through the CAO (Central Applications Office) for almost all universities.    

Here is a 20 minute video explains the CAO


What is the CAO?

  • The CAO (Central Applications Office) processes applications for undergraduate degrees in Irish Universities & Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).
  • Decisions on how many places to offer on each undergraduate course are made by the Universities/HEIs who instruct the CAO to send offers to successful candidates.
  • Most Universities / HEIs use the CAO but not all - you can find a list of participating Universities/HEIs by clicking HERE. 
  • Some private colleges accept direct applications but be careful as private colleges are not eligible for state funding. 
  • You can find a list of Universities / HEIs that are 'Approved' for state grants HERE. 

Making An Application

  • The CAO opens in November each year for entry to university the following September. 
  • You can apply online at this link
  • If you apply before January 20th the application fee is €30 (early fee) 
  • If you apply between January 21st and February 1st the application fee is €45 (normal fee) 
  • If you apply between February 2nd and May 1st the application fee is €60 (late fee) 
  • Not all courses or all Universities accept late applications, so if you miss the normal closing date of February 1st, you should contact the University Admissions office to ask if you can apply late (see contact details HERE)
  • Offers of places on courses are made between July and October each year (more details HERE) 

IMPORTANT - when you apply for a place on an undergraduate programme, you apply on the basis of one of the following … 

  1. having completed a Leaving Certificate 
  2. having completed a QQI Level 5 course (PLC) 
  3. having completed an Access Programme 
  4. as a mature student (see more details HERE)

1. Leaving Certificate (Level 5) 

The majority of students leaving secondary school (aged 17 to 19) use their Leaving Certificate results to apply for a place at University.  Their exam results are converted into points, and it is a very competitive process. 

2. Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) (Level 5 or 6) 

Universities will either convert PLC results to points to compete with the Leaving Cert points or they may reserve a certain number of places on some degrees for people who have completed a PLC course. This is a very popular route for people seeking asylum to use.  It is a one-year full-time course that can be used to progress to employment or as pre-university preparation and entry.

3. Access Foundation Programme (Level 6) 

Not all Universities offer Access Programmes (currently offered by - ATU Letterkenny - MU - Trinity 23+ - Trinity <23 - TU Dublin - TUS Athlone - TUS Limerick - UCD - UoG - UL).  This is a pre-University preparation course, some are part-time and some are full-time, usually lasting one academic year. Again a very popular route for people seeking asylum.  These programmes are a great way to prepare for an undergraduate degree.

4. Mature Student 

If you are 23 years old on January 1st in the year you want to go to University, you can apply on the basis of being a mature student. Some Universities will set aside a percentage of places on some courses for mature students. However, you may have to take an English Language test, and you may have to take a Mature Student Assessment exam (MSAP). In all cases, you should contact the Access Office of your chosen University and ask them what is required to enter University as a mature student. 

Some Further Important Points to Note … 

  • You might find some International Foundation Programmes on offer for €15,000 for one year, and they often guarantee you a place in University.  
  • It is not recommended that you take this route because if you get to University via this route, you will have to pay International fees for all four years (even if you obtain refugee status and three years in Ireland during your degree), and you will not be eligible for state funding or Sanctuary Scholarships. 
  • Also note that many health professional courses will require other pre-qualification assessments – here are some examples  -  HPAT, GAMSAT, or NMBI.

If in any doubt, please go to see an Adult Education Guidance Counsellor (go back to the education home page and click on our map to find one, this is a free service). Click here

Some Useful Web Pages 

Still need more support? Our Education team is available to help you. Fill out the form below. 

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