Every year a large number of applicants to the CAO fall within the mature student category. For anyone considering entering third level as a mature student, it is a big step and often intimidating but is worth it.
There is a lot of support available for mature students and the application process is not as cumbersome as it may first appear. Many institutions reserve 10pc of their places for mature students and in some areas these places are often not filled.
To qualify as a mature student for entry to third level in 2014, applicants generally must be at least 23 years of age by January 1. However, some institutions will have other definitions of mature students, as well as other age limits.
Mature students must apply to the CAO by February 1, although some colleges may consider an application made directly to them after this date.
Classification as a mature student means that the college will consider the application on the grounds of mature years and normal entry requirements will not apply. Years of work experience may be taken into consideration, an interview is likely and the institution will also consider any courses or classes taken to date.
The college will also be interested in hearing about any voluntary work or hobbies that applicants may have, especially if they are relevant to the course. If a mature student has the sufficient requirements from their school leaving exams, they may also enter through this route.
The process of applying is largely similar to other CAO applicants but with some notable differences. Mature students have the opportunity to provide extra information about the highest level of school they achieved, their work, hobbies and interests and any other qualifications or courses they may have completed.
Applicants shouldn't worry about completing each section for qualifications but it is important that they write something for each of the other sections. Mature students are also asked to explain the relevance of their life or educational experience and their educational goals.
There is a certain amount of space provided on the online CAO for each section but applicants are welcome to provide further by post if they wish. If sending any information to the CAO, applicants should ensure that they print their CAO number on each page.
It is of great importance that applicants contact the admissions office of each institution to which they wish to apply. While the process of completing the CAO form will be the same for every mature student, many institutions require mature students also to complete another application form.
Some institutions require this to be submitted before February 1, while others will forward this form to applicants after the February 1 deadline.
Certain courses may have additional requirements, such as entrance assessments. Therefore it is important for the applicant to contact the admissions office of the particular institution to ensure that they are fully aware of the entry process.
This can be done by phone or email and the admissions officers are always friendly and willing to help.
Important dates this week: December 4 Better Options Fair, National College of Ireland UCD School of Agriculture and Food information evening: Cork, Gresham Metropole December 5 Open day:– NCAD Open day:– Pallaskennry Agricultural College Mature student evening: University of Limerick December 6 Open day (two-day): DIT December 7 Open day for B.ed. Church of Ireland College of Education Open day: Conservatory of Music and Drama, DIT Open day: NUIM,– Kilkenny Campus Open day:– Trinity College Dublin SAT Test. Geology workshop: UCD December 10 Open day: Waterford IT Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin