Opportunities for mature students

Although most of the focus during the college application period is on school leavers, significant numbers of college applicants each year are non-standard applicants, including mature applicants, ie applicants over 23 years of age.

Last year’s (2010) CAO application figures showed that 14,696 of a total of about 77,628 applicants were “mature”; this figure represented just under 19% of all applicants. Quotas of places are held in many courses for applicants of mature years.

Prospective mature applicants can get a general overview of their opportunities for example, on the Qualifax website, www.qualifax.ie, where they will find a number of sites devoted to mature entry.

All higher education institutions (HEIs) are anxious to help mature students make informed decisions, and they have many support services in place.

College websites are a most sophisticated source of information for all applicants, and lists of websites addresses of HEIs can be quickly accessed directly or through CAO’s website, www.cao.ie. Many college websites have dedicated sections for mature applicants, geared to answer their specific questions. CAO’s handbook, also available online, contains much information for mature applicants, including details of how they should apply.

As mature applicants to nursing degrees will know, there are separate CAO codes for standard and mature applicants to all nursing degree programmes.

It is always advisable for any college applicant to visit a campus and talk to college staff, particularly the mature student officer.

Q Must mature students meet the same points requirements as school leavers?

A No. Mature applicants will usually be considered on the basis of other criteria, although some may use their Leaving results.

All college courses attract applications from mature applicants and there is no uniform selection mechanism. There are many opinions on the different selection mechanisms that are appropriate and practical.

Trinity College, for example, requires some mature applicants to pass some kinds of test. Applicants to music courses must sit the same written test as all applicants to music; mature applicants to English courses are asked to write an essay, while those applying to psychology are required to sit an aptitude test. Mature applicants to nursing in any college must also sit tests.

Even within different HEIs, different faculties will adopt different approaches to mature students’ selection procedures. UCD and UCC introduced a pilot scheme a couple of years ago whereby mature applicants to most Arts and Social Science degree programmes take an aptitude test called the Mature Students Admissions Pathway (MSAP). NUI Galway has also decided to use the same MSAP test for applicants to courses in its College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies.

So as well as applying to CAO, prospective mature applicants to those courses in those three universities must register for the MSAP admissions test for a fee of €65 by February 1. Further details may be obtained on www.msap.acer.edu.au.

Applicants who achieve over 60% in the UCD Adult Education Course ‘Access to Arts and Human Sciences’ are not required to sit the MSAP.

Information session: Today, Trinity College Dublin will hold a dedicated information session for Mature Student applicants from 4.30pm to 7.30pm in the Arts Building in Trinity. A series of talks will run simultaneously every half hour throughout the session and these will cover all faculties. The schedule is available on www.tcd.ie/maturestudents/ apply/

Irish Independent – January 13 2011

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