How to navigate the grant application system – and why you should start now
THE most common form of financial support for students going to college is the grant. Since 2012, all first-time grant applications and some other categories are managed by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).
Through the grant system, students may receive support for their registration fee, maintenance or part of either.
If you think you might qualify for assistance through the grant scheme, it is of the utmost importance that you apply as early as possible.
Do not wait until you have received your college offer. This could result in a long delay in you receiving your money, or difficulties starting your course.
The application system opens tomorrow, May 8, and is due to close on August 1.
This year, SUSI has launched a more user-friendly website, as well a number of other changes including a more streamlined internal process, which should make it easier for applicants.
The first step in applying for a student grant is to decide what type of applicant you are, independent or dependent.
Any applicant who was living with their parent or parents in October 2013 is considered a dependent applicant, regardless of age.
They will be assessed on the basis of their parents' and their own income.
Applicants over the age of 23 who do not live with their parents can be assessed as independent candidates.
Only their income and that of their spouse or partner, if relevant, will be considered.
Eligibility for a grant is assessed on total income, although certain payments will not be included.
Income limits for households with less than four dependents range between €22,703 and €54,240. These limits increase if there are more than four dependents.
The next step is to log on to susi.ie and enter the 'online grant eligibility reckoner'. This tool will request applicants to answer approximately 13 questions and will then give an indication of whether or not they should proceed with their application.
Applications can then be made through grantsonline.ie.
You will need your PPS number and a working email address to apply. You will also be asked to enter a password. It is very important to take note of the username, password and email used for the application, as they will be needed throughout the process.
Make sure that you keep it safe as you will need it again.
While many students worry about filling in the online application, it is not as scary as you might think.
Most of the questions are fairly straightforward and you can stop at any time and save the work you have done so far.
If you are unsure of how to proceed, or of the answer to any question, contact the SUSI helpline, where they will be happy to clarify this for you.
The application will not go to SUSI for evaluation until you hit the 'submit' button. A number of applicants each year make the mistake of forgetting to hit the 'submit' button, so it is important to ensure you have completed this step when finished.
In next week's column, we will look further at what students should be aware of when applying for grants.
IMPORTANT DATES THIS WEEK: TODAY
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- Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin