Saturday 3 December 2016

Welcome for mature students

Aoife Walsh

Published 06/01/2016 | 16:00

Most colleges have a mature students union where students can meet others returning to education for support and social events.
Most colleges have a mature students union where students can meet others returning to education for support and social events.

For every student considering beginning third level next autumn the idea of making the transition is both exciting and a little intimidating.

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For those returning to education as mature students, the whole process of application, entry, and the changes and challenges this will mean for their personal lives can seem overwhelming.

If you have already made the decision to make a mature application to the CAO than congratulations you have already take a huge step. If you are still considering taking this step rest assured that every potential applicant is experiencing the same doubts and worries. All third level institutions welcome mature applicants and value the diversity and wealth of knowledge they bring to the classroom. In addition there are a wide range of supports available to ease the transition and cater for the specific needs of mature students once they enter the system.

Most colleges have a mature students union where students can meet others returning to education for support and social events.

Some offer refresher courses in areas such as maths where mature students may find they are out of practice or have gaps in their knowledge, or special orientation days. In addition to this there will be a full time mature student officer in most institutions who are more than happy to assist student with any issue they may have whether it be academic, social, personal or financial.

The CAO defines a mature student as anyone who is over 23 years of age on January 1 2016 and most colleges concur. Some have their own age limits and more information is available on cao.ie/mature. Mature applicants should carefully read page 7 of the CAO handbook which clearly explains the mature student applicant process.

Any applicant who may be considering applying to the CAO as a mature student must take the February 1 deadline extremely seriously. Many institutions require mature applicant to have placed their chosen courses on the CAO no later than February 1 even if these courses are not restricted entry.

This is because institutions require mature students to attend an interview or participate in some testing.

It is possible to apply for some courses after this deadline but applicants may find their options reduced. Next applicants should contact the institutions they are considering to ensure that they understand all elements that will be required for application. For example some colleges will require applicants to apply through CAO and Direct application.

Mature applicants may also be required to complete extra information on the CAO form. Mature applicants may be requested to send documents to the CAO, which should be done within seven days of their application. Applicants should write their CAO number on the front of each document.

It is prudent to request a certificate of postage when sending documents and applicate can include a stamped address postcard or envelopment to receive a confirmation that the documents have been received. The CAO will return this to you as confirmation that the documents have arrived.

Mature applicants may also apply for a SUSI grant which may provide financial support for those entering third level.

This is a means tested grant base on income during 2015. Finance options may be available depending on personal circumstances before returning to education, which include the Back to Education Allowance, and VTOS allowances.

Although making the decision to return to education is intimidating more and more adults are taking this opportunity later in life.

There are currently more mature students than ever before in fulltime third level course than ever before.

Irish Independent

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