Preparing for your Child to go to College

Blog cover image holds an image in the center of four college students looking at a laptop screen. The text on the cover photo reads "Preparing for your child to go to college - Where to start"


Helping your child prepare for college is a big step for all involved. It’s important to acknowledge that it can be an anxious time for both the student and parent. Taking some time now to prepare and consider all the available options can help reduce anxiety and make the transition easier.   

Before we get stuck in, this blog will make references to sending your “child” to college. If you are reading this as a parent, you know that when you were 18, you considered yourself very much an adult – but they are still your child 😊  

It can be challenging to know where to start when preparing for college, so use this blog as an opportunity to start the conversation; use our top tips to get into the right headspace and prepare financially.  

Think of this blog as an opportunity to support and guide your child in taking the next step into adulthood, or so-called “adulting”.  

Let’s dive in! 


Take Time to Research 

It can be overwhelming when it comes to researching college courses. Taking time to explore what is involved in each course is very important.  

Start by asking these questions: 

  • What is the duration of the course? 
  • What modules are covered? 
  • Does the course content spark interest? 
  • Will the course keep their interest over a 1–4-year period? 
  • Does the course include a placement, here or abroad? 
  • Is there a similar course closer to home? 
  • Will it be possible to commute? 
  • How will the student get to college, is there a direct route and what transport costs are involved? 

To check out what the course entails, ask the school career guidance counsellor for help or visit the various websites available such as CAO, Qualifax, or Careers Portal 


Financial Supports Available 

For information on financial supports available, Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) provides clear guidelines regarding the criteria and what is involved in the means test for the maintenance grant and education fees. You can check eligibility by inputting your circumstances into the Eligibility Reckoner.   

Further information can be found on Citizens Information and if you’re looking for details on scholarship possibilities, check out Careers Portal 



Critical Dates for your Calendar 

Familiarise yourself with key dates, which will be available on the CAO website and also from the school guidance team.   

The first important date is 1st February 2024 at 5:00 pm closing date for applications.

It’s important to note that you do not have to choose a course at this stage, but you must register to get a CAO number. Students can change their choices up to 1 July @ 5:00 pm 2024. 

Even though your child will have their ideas on what they want, or perhaps they don’t, it can be challenging to know this age. It’s important to remember that there are always options, and decisions are not final. 

The Leaving Cert can bring so much pressure that there is little room for the student to think beyond leaving school and getting through the exams.  

Remember, once they have registered, they still have time to change their mind when the exams are over. So, the pressure is not on to decide on their course at this stage.  


Different Options 

It is important to look at where the course is available. For example, a similar course could be available on a different campus for fewer points. And it is not just about the points, also think what sort of campus might suit. Some students will be more comfortable on a smaller campus, while others will thrive in a bigger setting.  

Different routes suit different children, and there are so many options available. The CAO website gives information on Apprenticeships (Levels 5-10), Further Education and Training (Levels 5-6), as well as information on the Higher Education courses (Levels 6/7/8).   

If unsure, it is worth considering doing a PLC course to get a taste of the field of study. This is also a route if the student does not get the required points for entry straight into higher education. With a level 6 qualification, the student can look at advanced access to higher education and (subject to exam results in level 6) may join a level 7 or 8 courses in year 2.   

To sum up: take your time, do your research, weigh up the pros and cons and make sure the student picks something they like or are interested in. 

Best wishes to all students and parents of Leaving Cert class 2024 from the MABS team! 


Further Reading 

It’s never too early to start the planning process. It can be difficult to know where to start, or what you need to consider when planning for further education. We’ve pulled together a resource called planning for third-level education. Share this with you child or someone else you know who is thinking about the next step in their education journey. 


Next Steps 

If you have any additional questions or would like to speak to a member of MABS, call our National Helpline on 0818 07 2000 Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm if you want to talk confidentially about budgeting, problem debt or general financial matters. 

Note: We welcome references to and use of the content in this blog. However, please reference MABS and link said content if you choose to do so.