Grants and Scholarships available at third level

FOR the majority of prospective college students, funding a third-level education is a big consideration.

Students and their families should be aware of supports they are eligible to receive if they qualify for a college place next autumn.

As well as the maintenance grants available as part of the Government’s programme of student support — almost €6,000 a year for those from the lowest-income homes, despite further cuts in Budget 2012 — a range of scholarships is also available.

As well as offering financial support for socially-disadvantaged students, a number of funds are available for students based solely on academic performance. University of Limerick, for example, is to offer entrance scholarships of €2,000 each to 40 students beginning their studies there next autumn. All applications for places at UL through the CAO will be automatically included for selection, which will be based on CAO points in the Leaving Certificate.

Other schemes offering financial assistance through college include the Fund for Students with Disabilities, which helped third-level institutions provide equipment, special materials, technology and transport for 6,000 people with a range of disabilities and learning difficulties last year.

Although the fund is being cut this year by one-fifth, or nearly €3m, the Department of Education says it will still be able to meet demands placed on it. The supports mentioned here, and a range of other financial assistance programmes for college-goers, are outlined on the Higher Education Authority website dedicated to this topic: where details of the 2012 grants schemes, a revised State-funded bursary programme, and other assistance should be available as they are finalised.

Students and their families should make themselves aware of all the options, as they could qualify for vital funding or other assistance that will make the difference between ability to attend college or not.

Niall Murray, The Irish Examiner, 12/1/2012
Full article

Preparing for the 15 January deadline – UCAS

If any of your courses have a deadline of 15 January, make sure you get your application to UCAS on time.
Here are some key things you need to know or prepare to ensure your application is received by the deadline.

Know your login details for Apply
Make sure you know your login details, as you’ll need to log in to Apply to send your application. Use the login reminder service on the Apply page if you’re not sure.

Send it earlier if you can
The deadline is midnight on 15 January (23:59 UK time) but try to send it sooner in case you experience any problems, eg internet connection issues, payment problems. 15 January is a Sunday: schools and colleges probably won’t be open so if you’re applying through a centre, make sure you send your application to them as soon as possible. Send your application in early and we’ll send it out to the universities as soon as we’ve processed it, which could be earlier than the deadline.

Be prepared for any payment issues
You must pay for your application before it can be sent to UCAS. If you enter invalid payment details five times, you will be locked out from making any more payment attempts – if this happens, you’ll need to call us so send your application early just in case.

If you’re applying through a school or college, they’ll need time to review your application
Your tutor needs time to complete the reference section and check and approve your application before they send it to UCAS. If they spot any errors, they’ll send your application back to you to amend. If this happens, you need to change it and send it back to them, so that they can send it to us. It may not happen, but it’s good to allow time for this just in case. Simply sending it to your school or college before the deadline won’t count as sending it on time; it has to be received by UCAS.

You need a reference before you can send your application to us
However you request a reference (whether you’re applying independently or through a school or college), you still need to have a reference attached to your application before it can be sent to UCAS.

If you’re applying independently, allow enough time for your referee to read the instructions, write and attach the reference, and confirm that it has been completed. A red tick will appear next to the ‘reference’ link in Apply once it’s complete. This means you can complete the rest of the application and send it to us.

If you’re applying through a school or college, send your application to them early to allow them time to do write the reference and carry out the other checks before the deadline.

If you’ve agreed with the universities that a reference is not required – check the information on the reference page to see what to do.

If you need our help, contact us in good time
If you have a question about your application, check the advice about applying on our website, or contact us online through UCAS Connect.

If you need advice, you can also phone us during office hours.

Seven steps to CAO success

It’s is vital that students take the CAO application process seriously – it will have a huge influence on your future. These key tips will help.

The phone calls and emails begin in October and usually continue until Christmas. They are from anxious students or parents, concerned about wrong CAO choices. Students want to know how they can “escape ’’ from a college course which does not suit their skills and aptitudes. Parents want to know how they can rebuild the shattered confidence of their son or daughter and how they can avoid the very high cost of a repeating a first year under graduate course.

These are not isolated cases. Up to 30 per cent of first year under graduates will drop out and/or fail their college course. Many more will drift onward in a course which was never the right fit for their skills.

It’s easy to see how such mistakes are made.

At this time of year, Leaving Cert students are focused on the forthcoming mocks, on the orals and practicals and on assignment work.

The CAO process can seem like a nuisance. Campus life is still some distance away ; something to worry about next September.

This is a daft way to approach the CAO application process because – like it or not – your college choices will have a huge influence on your future.

My advice? Over the next fortnight take the time to research your college choices carefully. The following are some key tips.

* Be honest with yourself- choose the course that suits your skills and aptitudes, not one which will impress your friends and family;

* Talk to those who are taking the course this year. Ask them for the pro and cons- and make an informed decision.

* Don’t opt for a high points course if it does not suit.

* Ask yourself honestly – are you ready to commit the next four or more years to your chosen course. Is it the best fit for you?

* Talk to your teachers, guidance counsellor and parents/guardians about your possible choices. They have good advice to offer- take it!

* Inform yourself fully about your chosen course and campus. Gather information on the course online and visit the campus . Get an idea of what your student life will be like for the next four years.

* Don’t sleepwalk your way into a college course which does not suit.

PS: Submit the CAO form before the February 1st deadline, but use the Change of Mind process in June if you are still undecided

Irish Times

Entry points for colleges to rise

Entry points for colleges to rise
A study commissioned by Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn last year suggested that a cap on student numbers may be necessary

SEÁN FLYNN, Education Editor Irish Times
The points race for entry to third-level colleges is set to intensify this year with record numbers expected to apply for places.
As thousands of students submit their CAO choices this month, career experts expect a marked increase in points – especially for high-demand courses in science, technology and agriculture which appear to offer better job prospects.

But points for broad-based courses in arts and business – the pillars of the CAO system – could also rise.

More than 40,000 students are set to make their initial application to the CAO before the February 1st deadline.

Students can, however, also use the “change of mind” process in June to finalise their options before the July 1st deadline.
Several factors are combining to put upward pressure on points, including:

* The extra 25 bonus points available to the 8,000-plus students set to take higher-level maths in the Leaving Cert.

* The fall in the number of Irish students applying to colleges in Britain because of higher tuition charges – and the expected increase in British students applying to less expensive Irish colleges.

* The inability of many colleges to meet increased student demand because of cuts in staff and funding.

* An increase in applications from those who are struggling to find jobs or apprecenticeships.

The new bonus points system – designed to boost the take-up for higher-level maths – will be applied for the first time this summer. Students who secure a D3 or better in higher-level maths in the Leaving Cert will gain an extra 25 CAO points if maths is counted among their six best subjects.

Career experts say the 8,000-plus students expected to take higher-level maths will enjoy a significant advantage in the race for places in coveted courses such as medicine, healthcare, and science and technology.

The 20 per cent drop in applications by Irish students to British colleges will also put upward pressure on points.

English colleges can increase fees to £7,000-£9,000 from September but the increase has seen applications from Ireland drop from 2,352 to 1,899 in the past year.

This could also increase applications from British students to Irish colleges as they are liable only for the €2,250 student contribution charge. In particular, Trinity College Dublin – the top ranked Irish university – expects more applications from Britain.

Several Irish colleges – especially the seven universities – are already at capacity. Many are in no position to provide additional places.

Last year, a study commissioned by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn suggested that a cap on student numbers may be necessary.

The report from the Higher Education Authority underlined the grave funding crisis facing the sector as it seeks to accommodate record numbers of students with less income.

Job Interview Tips

An interview gives you the opportunity to showcase your qualifications to an employer, so it pays to be well prepared. The following information provides some helpful hints.
• Learn about the organization.
• Have a specific job or jobs in mind.
• Review your qualifications for the job.
• Be ready to briefly describe your experience, showing how it relates it the job.
• Be ready to answer broad questions, such as “Why should I hire you?” “Why do you want this job?” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
• Practice an interview with a friend or relative.
Personal appearance:
• Be well groomed.
• Dress appropriately.
• Do not chew gum or smoke.
The interview:
• Be early.
• Learn the name of your interviewer and greet him or her with a firm handshake.
• Use good manners with everyone you meet.
• Relax and answer each question concisely.
• Use proper English—avoid slang.
• Be cooperative and enthusiastic.
• Use body language to show interest—use eye contact and don’t slouch.
• Ask questions about the position and the organization, but avoid questions whose answers can easily be found on the company Web site.
• Also avoid asking questions about salary and benefits unless a job offer is made.
• Thank the interviewer when you leave and shake hands.
• Send a short thank you note following the interview.
Information to bring to an interview:
• Resume or application. Although not all employers require a resume, you should be able to furnish the interviewer information about your education, training, and previous employment.
• References. Employers typically require three references. Get permission before using anyone as a reference. Make sure that they will give you a good reference. Try to avoid using relatives as references.
• Transcripts. Employers may require an official copy of transcripts to verify grades, coursework, dates of attendance, and highest grade completed or degree awarded.

Ten Steps to Selecting a Course

Ten Steps to Selecting a Course

1 Establish your career goals and interests. Think about what you enjoy, what you are good at, what kind of personality you are, and the values you hold. Find out more about the nature, working conditions and future prospects of the jobs that interest you.

2 If you know what career interests you the most, find what kind of education and training you’ll need to work in that field and anything else that can help you narrow your focus.

3 Familiarise yourself with the different types of courses in a given field. Compare and contrast these courses. Decide on the type of course which suits you best. Spend time on your CAO handbook and UCAS.

4 Make sure you are academically prepared for college. Have you the subjects required for entry to the course that you are interest in? Have you checked how many points were required for entry to the course last year? Is the course Level 6, Level 7 or Level 8?

5 Choose college characteristics that are important to you, for example, location, class size, facilities, learning environment, student life.

6 Gather as much information as possible about the college. Talk to people who are currently studying there. If that is not possible, contact the college directly.

7 Make a short list of the colleges that possess the characteristics you’re looking for and that best meet your goals and needs.

8 Request additional information from the colleges on your list if the college prospectus does not provide you with sufficient information.

9Visited the college websites and other Internet resources for more information.

10 Be Honest / Reflective / and Committed

Industry and education helping to prepare young people for work

A growing level of collaboration between the business sector and third level institutions is helping to prepare the nation’s young people more adequately for their entry into the world of work, it has been revealed.

Third level students at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) recently benefitted from one such initiative, which saw 40 of the university’s students taking time out from their studies to meet up with mentors from a range of national and international industries and professions.

Students were given the opportunity to have one-to-one meetings with the mentors during the event, with the professionals able to pass on their wisdom and experience to the next generation of possible business leaders and professionals.

Keith Rynhart, a second-year undergraduate at NUIG studying for a Bachelor of Commerce in accounting, said: “The career mentoring session was a wonderful experience; it really helped me clarify the path that I wish to take in the future and make some contacts in the business world.”

Initiatives such as this are something that could prove extremely beneficial in the years ahead, as the growing level of competition among graduates and in the jobs market in general is making it harder for young people to find employment.

Dr Emer Mulligan, head of the School of Business and Economics at NUIG, commented: “We are delighted to once again host these career mentoring events. This initiative highlights the school’s … commitment to preparing its students for careers in the real world.”

Moreover, the government is also helping to promote greater connections between higher education institutions and the technology sector, after it announced last month the allocation of EUR 5.5 million in annual funding over the next four years for the second phase of the Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative.

Minister for Research & Innovation Sean Sherlock claimed the programme aims to deliver improved work and employment prospects across the country and greater revenues for the economy, while boosting the number of individuals embarking on careers in the high technology industry.

Irish Independent

Third-level scholarships that give athletes a sporting chance

Third-level scholarships that give athletes a sporting chance

Fees are going up, but you can still win an achievement award
Graduate students need to brush up to get into medicine
What courses does the ‘Free Fees Scheme’ actually cover?

As Christmas approaches, college open days end for the moment. Yesterday, Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) held its annual open day, and the next open day, RCSI’s for undergraduate applicants, is on January 4.

Waterford Institute of Technology is one of the largest institutes of technology in the country. It offers about 35 courses at Level 8, and 25 at Levels 7 and 6. Its Level 8 honours degree courses include architecture, construction management, engineering, accounting, business, exercise and health studies, hospitality management, law, music, nursing, sciences, arts, applied social studies, agriculture and many more. At Level 7, its courses include recreation and sports management, which can lead to a honours degree.

For a full list of WIT’s courses, check with the CAO handbook or website, or WIT’s own website, at

Sports degrees are popular in any college that offers them. UCD, UL, DCU, Limerick IT, IT Blanchardstown, IT Tralee, Waterford IT, Athlone IT, Cork IT, IT Carlow, IT Sligo, Letterkenny IT, Dundalk IT and GMIT (Castlebar) all offer sports related degrees. NUI Galway offers a sports and exercise engineering degree, leading directly to a fifth-year Master’s degree in Engineering.

Competition is keen for physical education courses. Graduates qualify as teachers, usually with a second subject. UCC, DCU, and UL offer such courses.

The University of Limerick plays an important role in Irish sport. Over 600 students are enrolled on its sports related programmes.

Last week’s column referred to sport scholarships in third-level colleges, but could only touch on some of what is available. Students interested in sports scholarships should check on the website of the college that interests them for details.

Benefits of the NUI Galway sports scholarship include a subsistence grant, coaching, medical and physiotherapy support, performance nutrition and performance psychology, strength and conditioning as well as performance planning and mentoring. Each scholarship is built around the individual’s needs. NUI Galway awarded 32 new students with Sports Scholarships this year.

About 20 sports scholarships are awarded each year in IT Sligo. Scholarships can be awarded to students in any sport.

Meanwhile, as December reaches the halfway mark, applicants to CAO should remember that the normal closing date is February 1. Non-standard applicants should not leave things to the last minute, as they may be required to provide additional information.

Q Who is considered a non-standard applicant?

A Non-standard applicants are those presenting with qualifications additional to or other than recent Irish Leaving Certificate results. They must complete page three of the CAO application form (or the equivalent section of the online application process), under one of the headings provided.

The headings are: applicants (1) who are submitting GCE/GCSE exams (2) other school-leaving exams including the Leaving Certificate Applied, or the Leaving Certificate before 1985, the NUI matriculation or Trinity Matriculation exams before 2012, or pre 1990 N Ireland or British GC(S)E exams; or any exam taken outside of Ireland; (3) applicants with NCVA awards prior to the year 2002; (4) other further education awards other than FETAC Level 5/6 or NCVA Level 2/3; (5) applicants who have attended a higher education institution; and (6) mature applicants (over 23 years of age).

Irish Independent

Looking at Science

PARENTS have been urged to steer their children away from traditional careers.

Old favourites like medicine, law and teaching should be abandoned in favour of science and technology, according to a leading higher education figure.

About 50,000 Leaving Certificate students are preparing to fill in their CAO application for college entry in September.

And parents have been told to take an active hand in their choices and steer them towards sectors where jobs are available.

With the CAO’s February 1 deadline looming, Higher Education Authority chairman John Hennessy last night made a strong intervention to advise parents to persuade their children to consider technology, science and engineering.

Parental influence on the choices facing Leaving Cert students should not be underestimated.

A recent study by the Economic and Social Research Institute found that parents, and mothers in particular, were a very important influence on career choices for more than 75pc of sixth years.


Mr Hennessy said: “The mammies and daddies of Ireland need to move away from the notion that future secure employment is in the traditional professions such as medicine, law and teaching.

“The real opportunities for Irish graduates will be in technology, science and engineering, and students with an interest in these areas must be encouraged to pursue courses in those fields.”

Mr Hennessy is also chairman and former managing director of engineering giant, Ericsson Ireland. He said that while there was an increasing supply of computing graduates coming through the third-level system, opportunities were growing even faster.

He said there would be healthy demand for talented computing and IT graduates over the coming years and there was a major challenge to ensure there would be enough to meet the clearly articulated needs of the industry.

Ireland is one of the world’s global centres for technology and Mr Hennessy said top class tech graduates were needed to work not only for indigenous and multinational companies but also to set up their own companies.

However, while strongly recommending that students consider courses in computing when filling out their CAO forms, he noted that some were “very maths heavy” and that students should contact the third-level institutions to find out more details.

– Katherine Donnelly

Irish Independent

UL to mark 40th anniversary with scholarship offer

A UNIVERSITY is marking its 40th anniversary this year by offering scholarships worth €2,000 each to 40 students who will begin their studies next autumn.
The scholarships for the University of Limerick (UL) will be awarded to students based on their performance in theLeaving Certificate.
All CAO applicants will be automatically included in the selection process provided they have not already received another bursary or scholarship from UL.
The scholarships will be offered across all disciplines with nine ear-marked for each of the four faculties.
There will also be two scholarships for the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance and two for inter-faculty programmes.
Professor Paul McCutcheon, vice president, academic and registrar at UL, said: “The UL40 scholarships are an ideal way to recognise UL’s academic achievements.”
– Breda Heffernan
Irish Independent