Your CAO Application
All students looking to get a college place in Ireland must apply through the Central Applications Office (CAO). As a student with a disability, there are a few extra things to think about and in some cases, a few extra forms to complete. You might think of these as a bit of a pain at the time, but the information you provide can be of great benefit in informing prospective colleges of your disability, ensuring they are prepared for your arrival and in some cases, getting you entry to a course slightly below the standard points requirement through an entry scheme such as Dare.
The CAO handbook has all you need to know about the standard application process, but as a student with a disability it's important to ensure that you complete the relevant disability related sections of the application so we'll focus on those here. We should say at this point that you are not obliged to tell the CAO or prospective colleges about your disability or specific learning difficulty, but we strongly recommend doing so.
Firstly, doing so WILL NOT and legally CAN NOT work against you - colleges are legally obliged to support students with disabilities and cannot discriminate against them. Secondly, completing this information may make you eligible for a supplementary entry route such as DARE - in plain English this means that you could possibly gain entry to your desired course with 10-15% less points than the standard requirement based how your disability has affected your education to date - more on the entry routes here.
Click the questions below to have further info drop down.
What do I need to think about in advance?
Choosing college courses is very important and may help to shape your future so start considering it as early as possible. In terms of your disability, ensure you have an up to date medical report verifying it as you'll need it to successfully complete the disability section of the CAO application. If you haven't got a qualifying report, go about getting one as early as possible as there can often be a waiting list to see the relevant consultants. For more information on which reports are acceptable and the appropiate age limits of the reports, click here.
How Do I Tell the CAO about my Disability? - The SIF Form
Step 2: Once you've done that, you'll find that the text and button under the Disability/Specific Learning Difficulty Section on your account homepage has changed. You now can see the 'Supplementary Information Form' button as per the screen shot below. Click it to go the Supplementary Information Form (SIF).
Step 3: Complete the SIF Form. This is where you provide in depth information and medical reports to verify your disability and place it in the context of your educational experience to date. This is the key information you need to provide to be considered for reduced points entry to colleges offering supplementary entry routes.
Question 1: Here you need to say whether you wish to be considered for a DARE place. DARE is a scheme run by 18 colleges which gives the possibility of slightly reduced points entry for those whose disability has had a very significant impact on their education to date. Click here for further information on DARE & Other Entry Routes.
Question 2 & 3: Here you need to tick the box identifying your primary disability (Q1) and if applicable, other disabilities (Q2). If you have multiple disabilities, your primary one should be considered the one which had the biggest impact on your education.
Question 4: In this question you need to mark what kinds of support you received at second level (e.g. Dyslexia Support, a Personal Assistant) and what support you think you might need in third level. Support services in 3rd level tend to be more comprehensive so take a look at our common 3rd level supports page before filling this out as there may be supports you haven't considered.
Question 5: The personal statement is a chance for you to tell colleges where you feel your disability had a big impact on your education on a day to day basis. (please note in you are applying for DARE, you do not have to complete Q5 as this info is covered in the associated Educational Impact Statement).
Examples of some things you should write about if affected by them are:
- Details of school missed due to illness
- Impact of your disability on meeting project deadlines
- If your disability affected your memory/concentration and as such, study and exam performance
- Limited access to text books
- Anything related to your disability which you feel put you at a disadvantage to others.
You can find examples of personal statements on page 7 of the DARE application guide.
Section B -Educational Impact Statement: This is a form you must print and complete. The purpose of this form is to demonstrate the impact that your disability has had on your education to date. There are two key elements to the form. The first is the applicant statement to be completed by yourself (the student). The second is the School Statement which should be completed by your School Teacher/Guidance Counsellor/Visiting Teacher and School Principal. The staff member completing the School Statement should have a good knowledge of your educational experience including any supports you may have received in 2nd level. Once completed, this form should be returned to the CAO. Keep a copy at home and send it registered post with your application number to ensure you have a fall back if the documents are not received.
Section C - Evidence of Disability: This form provides verification of your disability and helps to determine appropriate supports at third level. You must print it and have it completed by an appropriate medical specialist. In many cases, an already completed medical report may be accepted. For more information on which reports are acceptable and what type of specialists should fill out this form, click here. Once completed, this form (or an appropriate medical report) should be returned to the CAO. Keep a copy at home and send it registered post with your application number to ensure you have a fall back if the documents are not received.
Once Q1-5 are completed, click the submit button at the bottom of the page. Send the completed Academic Reference & Evidence of Disability forms by registered post to the CAO by April 1st.
What are the Important CAO Dates?
Take a look at the updated list of CAO important dates and familiarise yourself with dates that are relevant with you. The three key dates that relate to the disability sections of the CAO are as follows:
- February 1st - Standard Application Closing Date. Complete Step 1 above and other main CAO sections by this date.
- March 1st - Complete the Online section on the SIF form (Step 2-3 above) including ticking whether or not you wish to apply for DARE by this date.
- March 15th - CAO must have received the completed Academic Reference (SIF section B) & Evidence of Disability (SIF section C) in the post by this date to be considered for supplementary entry (e.g. DARE).