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Tips to help you fill in CAO and UCAS forms

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in education

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CAO applications process for 2017 is now open and if you apply before 17:15 on 20th January, you get a discounted application fee of €25. The normal application fee up to 1st February at 17:15 is €40.

Deciding what to apply for:

  • Look at lots of college brochures and get an idea of what courses interest you. If your school doesn't have prospectuses, ask them to order some or phone the college yourself and ask to be sent one. 
  • Make sure to check the basic entry requirements for the courses you're interested in. This info will be in the prospectus. For example, many Irish universities require that you have results in Irish and English as well as the necessary points.
  • Consider what you want to study AND where you'll be happy living. If you want a taste of city life then check out Dublin, Belfast, Galway, Limerick, Cork, Derry and UK universities. If you're more comfortable living somewhere smaller look at what's on offer in places like the University of Ulster at Coleraine or Sligo I.T.
  • Once you have an idea of what you're interested in, call the colleges and ask if there's someone you can talk to about the courses on offer.
  • If possible, visit the universities or colleges you plan to apply for. Most universities have open days, which give you an opportunity to visit the college. There is usually a tour of the facilities and information about everything the university has to offer.
  • You can usually download the university or college prospectus from the university website.


  • You can get UCAS and CAO forms at schools, colleges and careers offices. Or you can check their websites for more about applying online. Get hold of the free handbooks that explain how to fill in the forms also.
  • CAO and UCAS let you apply for lots of full time courses including degrees, diplomas and certificates.
  • When filling in CAO and UCAS make sure to put the course you really want to do as first choice. NOT what you think you'll have the results for.
  • Fill out the CAO and UCAS form in plenty of time. Don't forget there is a ‘change of mind’ form that you can use if you decide you want to apply for different courses. It is also possible to put off an offer for a year.
  • Practice filling in the CAO and UCAS forms. Make a photocopy of each one and get a teacher to check that everything is filled in properly before you post them off. Or apply online and get someone to look over the application before you finalise it.
  • Make sure you get the UCAS and CAO forms in on time. UCAS usually has early deadlines, so do your research and apply early.
  • The more research you do, the more confident you'll feel when you finally get to that chosen college!
  • Finally, this is important, so swallow your pride or shyness and ask the careers teacher to help you. Spend time in the careers office researching the best options and deciding what you really want to do.
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Published January 8th, 2014
Last updated January 9th, 2017
Tags education college university
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