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Plenty of college support for the mature student

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Options: Maynooth has a high proportion of mature students

Options: Maynooth has a high proportion of mature students

Options: Maynooth has a high proportion of mature students

Not everyone who will be applying to third level this year will be taking the Leaving Certificate in June.

Last year, over 12,000 mature students applied through the CAO for a college place.

A mature student is considered a person who is over 23 years of age by January 1 of the year of entry, so anyone who was 23 on or before last Thursday is eligible for this route.

When applying as a mature student, applicants will be judged by different criteria than school leavers - CAO points do not come into the equation while work and life experience will be taken into consideration.

Going to college as a mature student can be a very daunting experience and students face many challenges from the time the decide to apply until they complete their course.

Beginning third level is big step for every student, but mature students often must also balance college life with demands from work and home.

There are a wide variety of supports available for students in all colleges, which may include a mature students' union, a dedicated mature student officer, creche facilities, library support etc.

Colleges may also have a mature student induction programme where students are invited to the campus before the start of term to begin orientation and meet other students.

Financial support is also available through the Student Assistance Fund and SUSI grant. Mature students are considered non-standard applicants by the CAO and they must complete their applications by February 1. However some institutions will accept applications after this date.

When considering returning to education, it is essential mature applicants should first contact the admissions office of the institution they are interested in attending. The admissions staff will be happy to talk the applicant through the particular procedures at that institution.

Each college may have slightly different requirements. For example, some institutions ask applicants to submit the CAO form while others may ask applicants to complete supplementary information forms as well.

Mature entry will often require students completing a test or interview. Many institutions hold an annual mature student open day where information will be available on entry, course contents and available support. For instance, at its CAO Information Evening on January 14, Maynooth University, which has a high proportion of mature students among its student population, will include a special presentation for mature students on the university experience they can expect.

Once all forms have been submitted, the institution is likely to contact applicants with regards to any interview or testing.

Irish Independent