Want an early grant? Now is the time to tick the box…
IT is definitely a case of the early SUSI applicant catching an early grant come next autumn.
Students no longer have to wait to receive an offer of a college course before applying to SUSI, the centralised grants' agency. In fact, the time to start the process is when filling out the CAO form.
There is a question on the form asking applicants whether they intend to apply for grant funding and even if they are not sure about their eligibility, they should tick the box. This will enable SUSI to get information directly from the CAO later in the application process.
SUSI will not open for applications until April, but having this information from the CAO form allows for very speedy processing. Students are also urged to apply as soon as possible after the opening date in early April, as SUSI operates a priority processing system, dealing with applications by the date they are received.
The combination of the box-ticking on the CAO form and opening for applications in April (first-time applicants used to have to wait until they got a CAO offer) brought big rewards for students last year. Even before the Leaving Certificate exams had finished in June, almost 7,000 school-leavers were already assured a grant - which was surely a great comfort ahead of receiving a college offer.
Under the new procedures, SUSI assumes that an applicant will receive their top CAO choice and, if they meet the criteria for a grant, it is awarded.
If applicants do not get their first CAO choice and accept a different offer, SUSI will be advised and the grant will be paid without any further action by the student.
Grants are not paid until after students register at college, but the improvements rolled out by SUSI last year resulted in about 50,000 students being paid in September 2016 and a total of 68,000 students paid by the end of October.
The earlier grant payments begin, the easier it is for the student. The move to further or higher education is a big step anyway, so taking action now to minimise any delays in receiving necessary financial support is well worthwhile. In the current year, about 42,000 first year students, either in third-level or on a post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course received SUSI support.
Students who do not tick the SUSI option on their CAO application form will be required to submit an online Final Course Acceptance (FCA) form. Students access these by logging into their online SUSI accounts. When the time comes, it will be very important for students to do this as soon as they have been offered, and accepted, their college place.
Potential applicants are advised to check out the grant eligibility criteria on susi.ie. The site includes an online 'grant eligibility reckoner' where they can easily self-assess whether they may/may not be entitled to a student grant.