Preparing for your Child to go to College

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by Natalya, North Dublin MABS

25th November 2020

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The day of your son or daughter’s leaving certificate result is an important milestone for your child, and for you as a parent. Without a parent’s emotional and financial support, going into third level education can be hard.

As a parent of a leaving certificate student who has recently started his third level course, I can certainly tell you that it has been a challenging year. I would like to share my experience with the parents whose children are facing into their final school year before the next chapter in their new adult life begins.

Start Planning Now

You must be aware of the deadline for CAO applications, SUSI applications and time frame for other financial supports applications. Late applications are not accepted. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail! These dates can easily be marked down on a family calendar or planner or set a reminder on your phone for key dates such as when applications open and two weeks before the deadline.

I would recommend attending school events and meetings that each secondary school arranges for parents of leaving certificate students at the beginning of a final year. These events explain what you need to know to be prepared in advance.

Research Grants, Supports and Scholarships

I had to research on what financial supports and entitlements were available for my son and the advice to all the parents would be to start exploring information as early as possible. A lot of parents and students will face financial difficulties paying college fees as well as buying laptops, books, and may have to take bank loans or make sacrifices elsewhere. Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) provides clear guidelines regarding the criteria and what’s involved in the means test for the maintenance grant and education fees. You can check eligibility by adding your own personal circumstances into the Eligibility Reckoner. The website includes small videos about application, time frame, process and conditions, which are worth viewing at least 6-months prior to leaving certificate exams. Please check in a new window).

For those students who are actively playing sport, it is important to research third level colleges’ websites and information in relation to Sports Scholarship. Different colleges have different criteria, deadline and the applications need to be submitted early in the year around February/March. I would recommend once your son or daughter submitted a CAO application online, the next step is to research the colleges’ websites in relation to Sports Scholarship or Portfolios and deadline.

Budgeting as a Parent for the Cost of College

As parents are the ones who will be paying for their child’s further education in most cases, it is important to understand what expenses are associated with going to third level education and to know what financial supports are available before the college place is offered. It will depend whether your son or daughter will be studying from home, in the same city or will be moving away to study. Accommodation costs are expensive and need to be discussed and thought through well in advance. Transport fees, study materials and cost of a laptop are less expensive but can add up., Costs are something parents need to plan also in advance, especially if they are not eligible for SUSI grant based on reckonable income. In this case, my tips would be:

I also suggest reading about HEAR and DARE programmes, criteria and deadline for submitting applications as it may relate to your personal circumstances. Late applications cannot be accepted.

Finally, a Student Laptop Loan Scheme has been offered by many Irish colleges. You need to contact student financial support of your college directly once your child accepted an offer. Each college has their own criteria and time frame for submitting online applications for the student financial assistance scheme.

Parents and students must be aware of the appeal process and time frame in relation to SUSI grant and leaving certificate result. If your SUSI grant is refused based on means test/income for the previous tax year, make sure to appeal it if your financial circumstances changed in recent times. You will need to provide full financial information and highlight the financial changes.

A lot of websites are available to assist parents and leaving certificate students with a search:

A lot of leaving certificate students have no idea what they would like to do as a career. It is really the last few months after Christmas break when they make their choices depending on the subjects they enjoy. This is influenced by their teachers, classmates or parents and guided by their grades in school and the current job market and trends. It is vital to support your son or a daughter. Remember: every child is different, some are more artistic or sporty, others are more into study. Encouraging your son and daughter rather than putting extra pressure on them is vital.

MABS is here to help you plan for your or your child’s further education. If you are worried about how you’re going to pay for college for your children in the coming years, we have a factsheet to help you plan up to two years before your child starts college. You can speak to one of our advisers about your budget and any concerns you might have.

Best wishes to all the students who will sit their leaving certificate exam next June.

You can contact your local office here, chat through our online chat or call the MABS Helpline on 0761 07 2000, Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm or you can check the MABS News Feed for further updates and guidance.

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