Prospective third-level students with a sporting talent would do well to check out the sports scholarships on offer at their college, or colleges, of choice.
Colleges compete for students with serious sporting potential; they want high performers and offer scholarships as a way of attracting them.
They are a boon for young athletes who want to gain a third-level qualification while also pursuing their sporting ambition at the highest possible level.
Beyond any cash award, sports scholarships have a much greater value, in areas such as coaching, psychology, nutrition advice and medical and physiotherapy services.
Students also receive support on the academic side to ensure they hit the right balance between study and sport and that neither suffers because of the other.
Scholarships are for people with proven potential in a team or individual sport, competing, perhaps, at senior club, county, provincial, national or international level.
Arrangements vary between colleges, both in terms of eligibility and the nature of the scholarship, which is why it is worth finding out what's available and what are the requirements.
While it depends on the college and a student's particular talent, the list of sports recognised is growing every year and has moved well beyond traditional fields such as athletics, rugby, GAA and swimming. The breadth of skills that have, or are being, recognised for scholarships also include surfing, kick-boxing, snooker, golf, rowing, equestrian, tae kwon do, hockey and cricket.
The rise of the sports scholarship has gone hand-in-hand with the development of elite training facilities in the Irish third-level sector, with many colleges offering unrivalled facilities that are a magnet not only for students, but for top-notch teams and sportspeople from outside the college.