Apply as soon as possible if you think you might qualify for a grant
The most common form of financial support for students going to college is the grant. Since 2012 all first-time applications and some other categories are managed by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).
Through the grant system students may receive support for their registration fee, maintenance, or part of either.
If you think you might qualify for assistance through the grant scheme, it is of the upmost importance that you apply as early as possible. As the final deadline for a grant application is August 1, you cannot wait until you have received your offer.
The application system opened on May 20. The first step in applying for a student grant is to decide what type of applicant you are – independent or dependant.
Any applicant who was living with their parent or parents in October 2012 is considered a dependant candidate, regardless of age.
They will be assessed on the basis of their parents' and their own income.
Applicants over the age of 23 who do not live with their parents can be assessed as independents.
Only their income and that of their spouse or partner, if relevant, will be considered. Income limits for households with fewer than four dependants range between €22,703 and €54,240. These limits increase if there are more than four dependants.
The next step is to go to grantsonline.ie and begin your application. You will need your PPS number and a working email address.
You will be asked to enter a password. While many students worry about filling in the online application, it is not as scary as you might think.
Most of the questions are fairly straightforward and you can stop at any time and save the work you have done so far.
If you are unsure of how to proceed, or of the answer to any question, contact the SUSI helpline where they will be happy to clarify this for you.
The application will not go to SUSI for evaluation until you hit the 'submit' button.
Soon after submitting your application, you will receive a personalised list of documents, which you must send to SUSI.
As a result of changes to the system introduced this year, most Leaving Cert students will only have to sign and return a declaration allowing SUSI to gather the available documents directly. Regardless of what documents SUSI requests from you, it is important to return them as soon as possible.
Only send photocopies and include a pre-addressed envelope so that SUSI can return your documents to you.
These documents must be received within 21 days of getting the notice and it is important to submit everything as soon as possible to ensure that your grant will be available to you as early as possible.
Perhaps the most important change to the grant system this year will affect the children of those who are self-employed or farmers. It is important that the parents and guardians of these applicants submit their 2012 accounts immediately so that this information can be passed from the Revenue Commissioners to SUSI.
Once SUSI receives your documents, it will begin processing your application. You will then be notified that you have been provisionally awarded the grant.
Money will be released once the institution has confirmed your registration for the course.
You should always keep copies of any correspondence you may have with SUSI, until you have received your money.
Useful websites: studentfinance.ie, grantsonline.ie SUSI Support desk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 0761 08 7874 Available 9am - 8pm Mon/Fri Available 10am - 1pm Saturdays
Aoife Walsh is a careers guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School in Co Dublin