Aoife Walsh: SUSI is open and students are advised to get their grant application in early
SUSI, the national body for awarding third-level grants, is now accepting applications for the 2018/19 year.
Both existing students and those planning to go to college in the autumn are encouraged to make their application as early as possible.
The earlier a student, or prospective student, applies, the quicker a decision can be made and Leaving Cert candidates may have certainty about their entitlement to financial support even before the exams are over in June. Last year, SUSI approved 20,000 new grants before the CAO offers.
Applications are made through the SUSI website, susi.ie. Students should first use the 'eligibility reckoner' on the home page. This provides an indication as to whether they may be eligible for funding.
Every student who believes they may be eligible for a grant should make an application even if they are not sure they will accept an offer come August.
Applicants will be required to set up an online SUSI account. 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 information about the application. Students will also be required to enter their own PPS numbers and those of parents/spouses, etc.
Applicants are encouraged to use the SUSI 'online application tracker', where they can track the progress of their applications 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. If applicants are unable to find an answer to a particular question, there are a number of ways to contact SUSI in order to discuss particular circumstances or questions. These include Twitter, Facebook or the SUSI helpdesk 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday on 0761087874.
SUSI provides a large number of resources on its website, such as videos and student guides. These are very user-friendly and it can be very helpful for applicants and their parents to spend some time perusing these before starting the application. For most applicants it will be essential to have the support of a parent/guardian when completing this application as they will be asked a number of questions about family income and finances.
Applicants will be assessed as either dependent or independent applicants. Dependent applicants are those under the age of 23 on the year of entry to college, or applicants over the age of 23 who live with their parents. Dependent applicants should supply the financial information of their parents for the year of 2017. Independent applicants are those students who are over 23 and live independently of their parents in October of 2017 for entry in September 2018.
This year, July 12 is the deadline for submission of new applications for priority processing, but, as already advised, the earlier an application is made, the better.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
Q My son has dyslexia and struggles with languages. We have decided he should take French for Leaving Cert but this subject causes him a lot a stress. Given he may receive an exemption, have we made the wrong decision?
A A third language exemption is not guaranteed, however the NUI rules state: Students with specific learning difficulties affecting language acquisition (dyslexia) may apply for exemption from the third language requirement.
Taking away a possible exemption, you must weigh the difference between dropping the French and potentially gaining more points by taking a subject in which you will do better or more university choices by taking the language. Either way, if he keeps an open mind he will find courses he would like to do and qualify for, and there are many courses which can be accessed without a third language. For example, if your son wanted to go on to study history, geography science or politics, he would do so at DCU, UL, TCD or any of the institutes of technology.
I am aware that it might be quite late in the school year to be changing subjects, therefore it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions: Does he have an alternative subject he is drawn to? What will he do instead and is it available?
Leaving Cert is stressful for everyone and anything he can do to minimise this is helpful. However, don't become over-fixated with the language. Make a decision and then get on with it. There are always these kinds of dilemmas in life and 'what ifs' are rarely helpful.
Best of luck.