Remember to apply for grant before August 1 to ensure prompt payment
With the Leaving Certificate exams well out of the way, many students are now focussing on the prospects of going to college.
Almost half of first years usually qualify for a maintenance grant and, if intending students have not yet applied for one, it would be wise to do so as soon as possible.
The deadline for new grant applications (for those who want to benefit from priority processing) to the centralised grants agency, SUSI, is August 1 - before the release of Leaving Cert results or CAO offers.
It is extremely important that any student considering attending third level, who believes they may qualify for a grant, should apply, even if unsure whether they will accept their place. Early application will avoid delay in payments.
Applicants will be assessed on gross income from all sources for the period January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014, and as either a 'dependant' or 'independent'. A 'dependant' applicant is assessed on the income of the parents or legal guardian, while an 'independent' applicant is assessed on their own income and that of their spouse/civil partner or cohabitant.
The income threshold which applies to a household will differ depending on factors such as the number of children, the number of children currently attending college and type of courses the applicant intends to pursue, ie, post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) or undergraduate. The amount awarded varies depending on income and the income thresholds range from €22,703 up to €64,285 for a family with more than eight children with at least one attending third level.
Anyone considering applying for a grant should visit the eligibility reckoner on susi.ie, which allows potential applicants to enter personal information about nationality, income, educational history, etc and then gives an approximate indication of whether or not they are likely to qualify.
If the reckoner indicates that an applicant may qualify for a grant, applicants should proceed to grantsonline.ie or susi.ie home page and click the 'Apply Here' icon. Here the applicant will be asked to create a user name and password before entering the system and filling out the application form. It may be helpful to read the application form guide on susi.ie. Applicants will need to have their PPS number and, as they will be asked questions in relation to income and benefits, it may be helpful to have a parent present when completing the form. Applicants can "save" their progress and return later if they come across a question they cannot answer.
Once the online application is complete, susi.ie will notify applicants of any documentation they will be required to submit.
Applicants should apply as early as possible, while it is also essential to supply the correct information and relevant documentation on time.
If applicants have questions or difficulties at any stage of the application process they should contact the SUSI helpdesk.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
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