CAO Application Process

By ED Curtson •  Updated: 09/30/22 •  5 min read

Applying to university can be a stressful, time-consuming, and costly endeavour. Especially when you consider that every varsity has its different due dates, varying registration fees, and unique application processes. Therefore, the best way to reduce the time and resources you use on university applications is to consider using the CAO.


The Central Application Office (CAO) enables students to apply to several universities and private institutions with only one application office and one fee.

Everything You Need To Know To Complete A CAO Application

While The CAO is a tremendously useful service, plenty of information available makes it a challenge to navigate. However, we’ve simplified the process by answering some of your basic questions.

What Is The Application Deadline For CAO?

Since the CAO distributes applications to several universities and colleges, application deadlines run for as long as universities and colleges are accepting applicants, even late applicants. The best resource to determine whether a university you want to apply to is still accepting applications is to visit CAO’s website.

How Do You Register For CAO?

To register for CAO, head over to and click on apply. The system will prompt you to enter your ID number or passport number. Once you do that, you’ll be required to enter a cell phone number and email address. The email and cell phone numbers you use should be ones you have easy access to, as you’ll need to receive OTPs and correspondence frequently, especially during login attempts.

After completing your personal information, you will be requested to enter your programme codes and upload your relevant documentation; once you complete this process, the system will prompt you to pay.

What Is CAO’s Registration Fee, and Where Do You Pay It?

CAO charges a once-off fee of R470 for South African residents and citizens and R580 for foreign applicants. 

You’ll receive an Easy Pay number once you’ve completed your application. You can use this Easy Pay number to pay for your application through outlets that accept Easy Pay, e.g. Shoprite, Checkers, Pick n Pay, and Boxer. You can also pay via credit card on the website when you’re prompted.

If you decide to change your programme choices, you’ll be required to pay a Change of Mind (CoM) fee for every programme you want to change. This fee is R140 per programme.

Additionally, your application will only be made available to universities and colleges once you’ve paid your registration fee in full.

Is CAO Still Accepting Walk-Ins?

While CAO branches are still open, due to COVID-19, no face-to-face meetings are being held at their branches. Instead, CAO urges applicants to register online or call in to begin the application process.

You can access the CAO website at or call 031 268 4444 to begin the process.

What Are The Requirements To Apply Through the CAO?

To ensure your application is immediately available to the universities and colleges that use CAO, you’ll need the following documents when you apply. If you’re applying online, you will be able to upload these documents. However, if you’re sending in an application form, you should attach these documents to your application form. You’ll need:

1. A copy of your ID and

2. A final grade 11 report (if you are in Grade 12) or the highest qualification achieved (if you have already completed Grade 12)

What Are Course Codes and How Do You Find Them?

To apply via the CAO, you need to have a six-character course code. These course codes help narrow down your application and ensure relevant universities and colleges have access to it. However, finding these course codes can be challenging as the information is not readily available.

However, you’ll be able to access this information during the application process. When you’re applying, you can choose to search for course codes based on fields of study. For example, Civil for Civil engineering, etc. Alternatively, you can leave the search field empty, and you’ll be presented with a list of programmes, which you can then click to add to your application.

How Do I Check The Status of My Application?

Once you’ve applied for CAO, you can keep track of your application process by logging into your CAO profile or calling the self-help number on 086 0860 226.

Universities and Colleges That Accept CAO Applications

The CAO works in partnership with four Kwa-Zulu Natal Universities and fifteen private institutions across many campuses. If you’re considering applying to more than one of these institutions using CAO can be beneficial as you’ll save on fees and resources. To help you determine if the CAO is a good fit for you, here is the full list of Universities and colleges accepting applications through CAO:

Public Universities and Colleges

Private Universities, Colleges, and Higher Education Facilities

For many South African students, the CAO has become a valuable resource for entering higher learning institutions. The process allows you to keep track of your application in a central location and ensures that you have more options even if you apply later in the year.