How to seek out a scholarship
Scholarships are an increasingly common way for students with a particular talent to gain mentoring, add to their income and have their needs and achievements fully recognised by their college.
There is a broad range of scholarships available to support students who perform at a high level in areas such as sport and the performing arts, as well as exhibiting academic excellence. The benefits for students vary but can include financial support, guaranteed on-campus accommodation, coaching, physiotherapy, advice in areas such as nutrition, and psychological and academic support.
The variety of scholarships is growing all the time, and other examples include colleges recognising and rewarding students' efforts in entrepreneurship and citizenship. Most recently, there are examples of schemes designed to support asylum seekers. Some scholarships allow entry on reduced CAO points in recognition of the time that students devote to their area of talent.
The additional mentoring and workshops offered by some scholarship programmes may even be more beneficial to some students than any monetary reward, as they gain useful contacts and training in their field of interest.
It is worthwhile for students to check what is available in their college of choice and to do so early. In some cases, scholarships are applied for, or awarded automatically, when students are enrolled, but there are others for which students must apply in advance.
The scholarship offering varies between colleges and, even within the same college, there will be different schemes providing different levels of support.
Among the programmes at UCD is the elite Ad Astra Academy, which rewards exceptional talent across sports, performing arts and academia. Olympic silver medallist and lightweight men's single sculls world champion Paul O'Donovan is a current recipient. The deadline for applications to Ad Astra for prospective UCD students is January 31.
NUI Galway's creative minds have slightly longer to fill out their applications, which are due on May 1. Creative arts scholarships are open to students who display excellence in creative writing, digital arts and media, drama, film and non-fiction writing and journalism. Successful applicants will gain a bonus of 40 points when applying to NUI Galway and will also be appointed a mentor who is associated with their specialty.
The closing date for Carlow IT's High Performance Entry Scheme, which covers sport, active citizenship and innovation/entrepreneurship, is July 1. It offers up to 50 extra CAO points for students who have achieved at least 250 points in their Leaving Cert or FETAC Level 5, and who meet minimum entry requirements.
UCC's Quercus Entrance Scholarships are based on Leaving Certificate results and award up to €2,000 each for incoming first-years. There is no application required and successful students will be notified directly.
Access routes are also improved by scholarship funding. Maynooth University offers a scholarship worth up to €2,000 for students with a significant disability who are experiencing financial difficulties. To apply, students must complete an application and register with the Disability Office in the university.
Both NUIG and DCU have implemented scholarship programmes for refugees this year. DCU has confirmed that 15 academic scholarships will be made available to applicants currently in Ireland as asylum seekers or refugees.
Meanwhile, NUIG's inclusive centenaries scheme will cover fees, a monthly living allowance and accommodation costs as required for asylum seekers and refugees in Ireland.
There are also a number of more specific scholarships unique to certain institutions for those undertaking particular courses and fields of study. For instance, architecture students at DIT can apply for the Sir Richard Morrison Scholarship, while Irish traditional musicians entering UCC to study music are eligible to apply for the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann scholarships.
Choral and vocalist scholarships are also available in several institutions. Trinity College Dublin offers eight choral scholarships valued at €1,300. Applications can be made in person at the Chapel Choir desk in Front Square during Freshers' Week.