Writing in the Irish Independent this week, Guidance Counsellor Aoife Walsh gives advice on important sections of the CAO form which students may not be conscious of at this early stage, but which are very are relevant to many applicants.
SUSI - grant application
The first section on the account home page which is not related to courses, but which must be attended to, concerns SUSI, the organisation responsible for processing grant applications. This section is very easy. The CAO is simply seeking permission to share an applicant's information with SUSI. Ticking the box will allow SUSI to know if the applicant has been offered a place, if they have accepted a place and which institution they will attend, ensuring that the grant application proceeds as smoothly as possible, so there are no delays in autumn. CAO applicants may not yet be sure if this section is relevant to them, but if they are considering applying for a grant, they should tick this box just in case. Applicants and their parents may wish to use the eligibility reckoner on susi.ie to explore whether they are likely to qualify.
SUSI itself will begin accepting applications in late spring/early summer.
CAO applicants will be asked to indicate if they have a disability or a specific learning difficulty. The purpose of this section is to allow the college to be aware that an applicant may have some needs. If the applicant decides to declare a disability or specific learning difficulty then the college is likely to contact them for more information, but it is up the applicant whether or not to accept this support.
The supports offered by colleges for those with disabilities or learning difficulties are both practical and much easier to access than at second level. I would highly recommend all applicants who fall into this category to indicate it on the CAO form. This will allow the applicant to find out more about the supports on offer; they can then choose to access these supports, or not.
Once an applicant has indicated that they have a disability or a learning difficultly they will then see an option to apply for the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE). This is a reduced points entry route and completely separate from the support that institutions offer. We will explore DARE further next week.
There is also a section about the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) scheme, a reduced points entry route for students who come from an educationally disadvantaged background, the first criterion for which relates to income. If an applicant does not qualify for the HEAR programme they may skip this section. We will explore the HEAR programme further next week.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
The CareersPortal Team