Mature Student Guide To College-Finances

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Hey guys!

Hope you’re well and aren’t too put off by the slow introduction of Autumn and the sad release of Summer.This is the second instalment in my Mature Student Guide to applying to college. This time I’ll be focusing on the financial aspect of it. Again, every mature students path to college is different so for the benefit of this post, I’ll be focusing on it from my point of view and my experience of it. Every Mature Students access to college will be different.

Third level education in Ireland is technically free. The government cover the cost of third level education, however every student is expected to pay a ‘student contribution fee’ of €3,000. This gives can usually be paid in two instalments-one at the start of the year and another half way through it. The Free Fees Initiative does have some conditions to it. All students applying must be resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss State/United Kingdom for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to a third-level course of their choice.

A Mature Student is someone who’s 23 or over on or before January 1st of the year of application. I wasn’t 23 until the February so had to wait another year before I could avail of the scheme. As a Mature Student, your place in college isn’t determined from Leaving Cert points. However, it’s usually not covered by the Fee Frees Initiative so you have to pay full European fees. Currently, these stand at €6,679 per year. The financial aspect of the Mature Student process is a long. laborious and quite frankly stressful time!

In order to apply as a Mature Student, your finances are examined to determine the level of income of your household. This ,along with your educational history can determine the amount of fees that you pay. As I had attended three previous colleges (two third level and one PLC college) I had to get a form from the CAO for each of the institutions I attended. I then had to fill these out and have them sent to each institution to have them confirm that I did in fact attend there for the dates that I had provided the CAO with. This was an extremely long process as it was during Covid and I think some admin staff just forgot either HOW to do their job or the fact they they HAD to work in the first place.At one point I had a secretary tell me that I had addressed the email to a tutor and they don’t open those emails. I had to actually tell her that I had emailed the reception too and sure enough, the email was sitting there ready to be opened… I wouldn’t mind but it was sent back to me in the next 15 minutes!

Once I had all forms signed and stamped by each institution I then had to send them to the CAO who then assess the level of fees you’ve to pay. This process takes a few weeks and they eventually get back to you.In the end it was established that I did actually qualify for the Free Fees Initiative because I had one year outstanding from my other college courses. The bad news is is that I have to pay the European fees for two years… I’ll come out in three years time with the most expensive piece of paper I think I’ll ever own…

You can find more information on fees and the mature student application here .

Til next time,


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