Why it's worth checking out what college scholarships are on offer
Scholarships are now commonplace in Irish third-level institutions, with colleges using them as a way of attracting talent.
They are awarded by universities and institutes of technology for a variety of reasons, generally to recognise academic excellence or achievement in fields such as sports, the arts, citizenship and entrepreneurship.
While the focus of CAO applicants must be to select the most appropriate course, it is worth exploring what different colleges offer in terms of scholarship, and through those, the extra supports a student may enjoy while in third level.
Sports scholarships recognise proven potential in team or individual sports, usually to students who are competing at national, inter-provincial, inter-county or senior club level.
Colleges may offer a points waiver to CAO applicants in recognition of time spent in pursuit of excellence in their chosen sport - and how that might interfere with their Leaving Certificate studies.
For instance, the Maynooth University sports scholarship programme gives a concession of up to 60 CAO points once the applicant meets minimum entry requirements and attains at least 300 points in their best six Leaving Cert subjects.
The value of sports scholarships goes well beyond any cash award and, depending on the college, recipients can look forward to supports such as coaching, psychology, nutrition advice, medical and physiotherapy services. A huge variety of sports are now recognised, although it varies between colleges. Among the list of sports recognised at Maynooth is snooker (above), while rowing is one of those recognised at University of Limerick. Dublin City University will consider all sports recognised by the Irish Sports Council.
Trinity College Dublin, which awarded 60 scholarships across 13 sports this year, recently announced a new medical care programme for its sports scholars. As well as sports, UCD and NUI Galway are among the colleges recognising excellence in the performing arts. NUI Galway offers students with exceptional artistic promise and achievement in areas such as creative writing, digital arts, drama, theatre, film and journalism, a waiver of up to 40 CAO points, provided they attain a minimum 350 points in six Leaving Cert subjects.
There are now scholarships available for less traditional areas as many third level institutions are eager to recognise talent and work outside of the sport, arts and academic field - citizenship and entrepreneurship are areas gaining more attention.
University College Cork (UCC) will be awarding three of its Quercus scholarships for active citizenship this year. Carlow IT is now offering recognition for work in the area of citizenship and entrepreneurship and awards up to 50 extra CAO points for achievement in these areas.
Other institutions recognising citizenship include Dun Laoghaire IADT, while UCC and IT Sligo are rewarding entrepreneurship.
Colleges also reward academic excellence, based on performance in the Leaving Cert, and supports include financial rewards as well as mentoring and, generally, a guarantee of campus accommodation.
Meanwhile, the multinational, Intel offers scholarships for female school-leavers entering specified four-year undergraduate degree courses as a way of promoting women in engineering. The scholarships are valued at €3,000 each per year.