Cao Your Top 10 Advice

.Filling out CAO Tips


It’s November,

CAO has just opened and launched a floodgate for students in terms of college choice. Students are swamped with options and many are having a challenging time choosing because they are not set on a career yet. Others are luckier, as they had their heart set on a career since 1st year and know exactly what courses they will put down on the list.

This blog will strive to guide you on making your CAO choice. Everyone will have their own technique for picking their top 10 but we are writing this to help you if you are struggling, so take this as advice only.

When you get your booklet the first thing you should do is cross off all the courses you are certain you don’t want to study, for example if you have no interest in music cross it off from every college that provides it. At the start you might feel overwhelmed thinking that there is too many courses to choose from but trust me usually there is maximum 2-3 pages per college of courses and you will be surprised how slim your choice gap will become. This will leave you with only the courses you are thinking of considering choosing and the colleges that provide those.


Some colleges only specialize in one field of study so if you are not interested in that field then it makes your decision easier as you can forgo those colleges in you decision making. If you are not interested in business cross off all the schools of business. Your scope of choice will get slimmer and slimmer.

 If you are certain that you definitely don’t want to study in a certain city then cross off the schools from that city, however /!\ before you do that I would make a list of the pros and cons of moving to that city as you might find that for example now it might cost you a little extra however usually different cities are hubs for different fields so if you want to get into a big 4 accounting firm then studying in a city where the firm is located drastically improves your chances. For example, there is a lot of medical companies in Cork and Galway so you are more likely to find an internship or job in that area after graduation. So, take that into consideration.

Students usual dilemma is the struggle of picking between their top 2 choices – obviously you can’t attend two universities at the same time but you can always attend college in one for the undergraduate and if you are planning on it a master in the other university so that way you won’t get fomo. I would attend the open days at your top 2 universities as it is near impossible to attend open days at all colleges you have on your list. You might even end up really liking one of the universities and end up disliking the other. Open days will give you an opportunity to get acquainted with the city and the college. It is important that you like living somewhere for the next 4 years of your early adult life instead of wasting it somewhere you don’t like. If you are studying something which can be challenging then having an escape through extracurriculars such as RPG’s or going to the gym, attending festivals in the city or taking a walk through the scenic places in the town/city makes all the difference and greatly enhances the study experience.

Research the college first and see what they specialize in. If you are going for information technology then rank the I.T schools in terms of facilities, ranks, placement opportunities and rank them in order of preference. If you don’t want to move too far away from home then from your ranking you will see which school closest to you will have the facilities and opportunities needed to succeed in your field.

  • Fill out the whole 10 spaces you are given and remember number 1 is your top choice so choose wisely, if you really want to do a course put it down as number one as you might get it in the subsequent rounds or points might change that year and you might end up pleasantly surprised.

  • If you haven’t yet take a read of our Higher Options blog for more advice on accommodation, fees, scholarships and everything a student needs in order to make their path to third level more comprehensive and clear. CLICK HERE

  •  TIP – Use Spreadsheets or Word as a mock CAO list before filling out the actually list that way you can mitigate any errors or mistakes when filing the actual form out.

  • The deadline for CAO this year is February 1st so make sure to take a note of the date and you can make changes to your list up until that date free of charge. If you do fill in your CAO early on, say in November/December, I would check a few days before closing date that you are happy with your choices and that your choices are in the correct order.

  • Don’t forget to fill out your level 6/7 application form too – you may feel certain that you will get your level 8 choice but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

  • Change of mind facility opens in May and closes in July for those who have a last minute change of mind.

  • Also remember that if you get to college and find that the course or school is not for you and you really don’t see yourself spending the next 4 years there. CHANGE! Nothing is permanent, look into transferring internally or externally.

Best of luck with your choice!

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