Apply for grant now to ensure early payment
Going to college...
Many students may not be aware but the centralised grants agency, SUSI, opened for application over the Easter holidays. This is understandable as schools have been very busy places over the last number of weeks - especially for Leaving Cert students.
As always, it is imperative that students apply as early as possible to avoid any delays in payment come September.
Indeed, last year, almost 20,000 early SUSI applicants knew they had grants secured even before they received their Leaving Cert results and CAO offers in August, which provided great financial certainty.
Applicants are assessed either as dependent or independent applicants.
Dependent applicants are those under the age of 23 in the year of entry, or those over the age of 23, who live with their parents. In order to determine eligibility for a grant, they will have to provide financial information relating to their parents.
Independent applicants seeking entry to college in September 2017, are those students who are over 23 in the year of entry, and who lived independently of their parents in October 2016.
The financial information required by SUSI includes all income - including rental, farming and self-employed income. Applications for the academic year 2017/2018 will be assessed based on income for the 2016 tax year.
Students can make their applications through the SUSI website, susi.ie. Students should first use the 'eligibility reckoner' on the website's home page. This facility is very helpful, giving potential applicants an indication as to whether they may be eligible for student grant funding.
If so, the applicant should proceed to the main application section. Due to the large volume of financial information required, it is prudent for applicants to fill out this section with the assistance of a parent or guardian.
Applicants are required to set up their own online SUSI accounts. They will need to create a username, password and PIN number. It is important to ensure that these are easy to remember as they will be needed on an ongoing basis to access the account, and information about applications. Students will also be required to enter their own PPS numbers and those of their parents/spouses, etc.
Applicants are also encouraged to use the SUSI 'online application tracker', which allows them to monitor the progress of their application for grant funding, and confirm that their documentation has been received, without having to contact SUSI directly.
This will help applicants ensure they are on top of their application and prevent potential delays to receiving their payment.
There is plenty of information on the susi website to assist applicants. It's a good idea for applicants and their parents to spend some time going through this information before completing their application.
If applicants are unable to find an answer to a particular question, then there are a number of ways to contact SUSI in order to discuss individual circumstances. These include Twitter, Facebook or the SUSI help desk (9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday on (0761) 087874).
This year, the priority closing date is July 13 and every student who believes they may be eligible for a SUSI grant should make an application, even if they are not sure they will accept their offer come August.
Next week, this column will look at some frequently asked questions about the SUSI process.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
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Q I am a Leaving Cert student and I have made a CAO application. However, an opportunity has arisen for me, and I think I do not want to go to college this year, but perhaps next year instead. What should I do?
A The first thing to do is to discuss this with your parents and/or guidance counsellor to ensure that this is the right decision for you at this time. Then, if you are sure you want to explore this opportunity, I suggest that you continue with your CAO application as normal. Give it as much attention as you would if you were hoping to enter third level this year.
If you get an offer and choose not to go to third level in the autumn, but would like to take up the same course in 2018, you can apply for a deferral.CAO Round One will be published on August 21. In order to apply for a deferral, you should contact the college from which you have received the offer as soon as possible for advice on how to progress. The college will ultimately decide whether or not it will grant the deferral, however, the majority of colleges are very open to this.
Deferral will allow you to take up the same place next year, for the same points and entry requirements.