Preparing for your Child to go to College

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The day of your son or daughter’s leaving certificate result is an important milestone for your child. As well as the parent. Without a parent’s emotional and financial support, going into third level education can be challenging. 

I can certainly tell you that it is challenging, as a parent speaking from first-hand experience. I would like to share my experience with the parents whose children face their final school year. Before the next chapter in their new adult life begins. 

Start Planning Now 

You must be aware of the deadline for CAO applications, SUSI applications and time frame for other financial supports applications. Late applications are not accepted. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail! These dates can easily be marked down on a family calendar or planner. A top tip is to set a reminder on your phone of key dates. For example, when applications open and two weeks before the deadline. 

I would recommend attending school events and meetings that each secondary school arranges for parents. These events explain what you need to know to be prepared in advance, as a parent of a child in their final school year.

Research Grants, Supports and Scholarships 

I had to research what financial supports and entitlements were available for my son. The advice to all the parents would be to start exploring information as early as possible. Many parents and students will face financial difficulties paying college fees. In addition to buying laptops and books. You may have to take out bank loans or make sacrifices elsewhere.

Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) provides clear guidelines regarding the criteria and what’s involved in the means test for the maintenance grant and education fees. You can check eligibility by adding your own personal circumstances into the Eligibility Reckoner. The website includes small videos about the application, time frame, process and conditions. These are worth viewing at least 6-months before leaving certificate exams. 

For those students who are actively playing sport, it is essential to research third level colleges’ websites about Sports Scholarship. Different colleges have different criteria, deadlines and the applications need to be submitted early in the year (around February/March). I would recommend, once your son or daughter submitted a CAO application online, to research the colleges’ websites about Sports Scholarship or Portfolios.

Budgeting as a Parent for the Cost of College 

Parents, in most cases, are the ones who will be paying for their child’s further education. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of possible expenses and know what financial supports are available. It will depend on whether your son or daughter will be studying from home, in the same city, or moving away to study. Accommodation costs are expensive and need to be discussed well in advance. Transport fees, study materials and the price of a laptop may be less costly but can add up. Parents need to plan costs in advance, especially if they are not eligible for SUSI grant based on reckonable income. In this case, my tips would be: 

  • Start saving at least a year in advance of your child going into third-level education 
  • Research information on financial supports available well in advance by contacting colleges directly or checking online 
  • Make notes in a diary with dates and deadlines at the beginning of a final school year 
  • Arrange to meet a Money Adviser in your local MABS to discuss budgeting and income maximisation 
  • Contact the Citizens Information Phone Service (CIPS) on 0818 07 4000 or their website for further information on third level courses, college fees and residency criteria. 

Programmes & Schemes

I also suggest reading about HEAR and DARE programmes. The criteria and deadline for submitting applications may relate to your personal circumstances. Late applications cannot be accepted. 

Finally, a Student Laptop Loan Scheme has been offered by many Irish colleges. You need to contact the student financial support of your college directly once your child accepted an offer. Each college has its own criteria and time frame for submitting online applications for the student financial assistance scheme. 

Parents and students must be aware of the appeal process and time frame concerning the SUSI grant and leaving certificate result. The SUSI grant is means-tested and assessed on the previous year. If your SUSI grant is refused, be sure to appeal it if your financial circumstances changed in recent times. You will need to provide full financial information and highlight the financial changes. 

A lot of websites are available to assist parents and Leaving Certificate students with a search: 

  • - for details of all the courses in Ireland 
  •  – for information on third-level education, college fees, criteria and student grants 
  • – for information on all undergraduate courses and application process in Ireland 
  • - for financial supports available to students with disabilities and information on different scholarship funds for studying in Ireland or abroad 

A lot of leaving certificate students have no idea what they would like to do as a career. It is really the last few months, after Christmas break, when they make their choices. This is influenced by their teachers, classmates or parents and guided by their grades in school/the current job market and trends. It is vital to support your son or a daughter. Remember: every child is different, some are more artistic or sporty, others are more into study. Encouraging your son and daughter rather than putting extra pressure on them is vital. 

MABS is here to help you plan for your or your child’s further education. If you are worried about how you’re going to pay for your children’s college in the coming years, we have a factsheet available for you. This will help you to plan up to two years before your child starts college. You can speak to one of our advisers about your budget and any concerns you might have. 

Best wishes to all the students who will sit their leaving certificate exam next June. 

Call the MABS Helpline on 0818 07 2000, Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm, WhatsApp 086 035 3141 or contact your local office.

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