How to help your child land a scholarship

There’s not a lot of information out there about second and third level scholarships. So Aileen Lee has been doing some research.

How to help your child land a scholarship

As parents plan for their children’s move from primary to secondary school and Leaving Cert pupils deliberate over their third-level choices, one common denominator looms on the horizon – the cost of education.

Last year, a Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) study found that 79% of parents support their children financially through college, contributing €428 per month to cover an individual child’s college costs and that 72% of family budgets have been adversely affected by the third-level registration fee which now stands at €3,000.

While the majority of parents will not consider sending their children to private secondary school as it’s not possible for financial or geographic reasons, there are many parents who would love their child to have that privilege and scholarships can make that dream a reality.

Scholarships and bursaries offer parents and students another source of funding for second- or third-level expenses. There are fewer scholarships or bursaries available at second-level as most schools are not fee-paying.

Entrance scholarships

Entrance scholarships are available at the following fee-paying schools, and, in some cases, are for the duration of the student’s time at the school (six years). They are generally based on a scholarship examination and are awarded on academic or musical merit. They can cover full or partial tuition or boarding fees, or in some cases, both:

- Royal School, Cavan (Church of Ireland, co-ed)

- Scoil Mhuire, Wellington Road (Catholic, girls), Cork

- Alexandra College (Church of Ireland, girls), Dublin

- Rockbrook Park School (Catholic, boys), Dublin;

- Rosemont School (Catholic, girls), Dublin

- Sandford Park School (non-denominational, co-ed), Dublin;

- St Columba’s College (Church of Ireland, co-ed), Dublin;

- Sutton Park School (multi-denominational, co-ed), Dublin

- Wesley College (Methodist, co-ed), Dublin

- Coláiste Íde (Catholic, Irish-speaking, girls), Kerry

- Rockwell College (Catholic, co-ed), Co Tipperary

- Wilson’s Hospital School (Church of Ireland, co-ed), Westmeath.

One non fee-paying school that is bucking the scholarship trend, however, is Portlaoise College (multi-denominational, co-ed) in Co Laois. They offer an entrance scholarship to first years, for the first three years of secondary school and this covers the costs of the the e-book scheme (approximately €600). They also award a voucher which covers one item of the school uniform. Application is based on a scholarship examination designed to encourage and reward high academic standard.

Scholarship schemes/bursaries are also available at Castleknock College, Belvedere College and Gonzaga College in Dublin and Clongowes Wood College in Kildare for first years, who would otherwise not be able to afford to attend these fee-paying boys’ schools. In Cork, Presentation Brothers College operates a similar scheme: the Edmund Rice Bursary Programme.

In Protestant-managed secondary schools, students may be eligible for a grant through the Secondary Education Committee. This would apply to schools such as Bandon Grammar in Cork, Royal School in Cavan, Sligo Grammar School and Villiers Secondary School in Limerick. All of these schools are co-educational.


All universities and Institutes of Technology (ITs) offer scholarships, specific to their own institution. These are separate from the student assistance funds for students who are experiencing financial difficulties.

Academic achievement

This is the principal type of entrance scholarship available. The following universities offer registered first-year students scholarships or awards based on their Leaving Certificate results: University College Dublin (560+ points); Dublin City University (550+ points); DIT (500+ points – specified courses); and UCC (500+ points – specified courses).

There are also individual awards at individual universities with Leaving Cert or A-Level results an essential factor but each award has its own stipulations and conditions:

- Trinity College Dublin: Entrance Exhibitions;

- University College Cork: the Keliher Scholarship and Quercus Entrance Scholarships;

- University College Dublin: Ad Astra Scholarships;

- University of Limerick: the Edith and Leslie Downer Entrance Scholarship.

Sporting achievement

All ITs and universities offer some form of sports scholarship. They generally provide financial support, as well as other supports such as medical and nutritional support, physical therapy, and fitness training. Successful candidates are often expected to make themselves available for selection for their institution’s team(s).

NUI Galway has announced they will award a limited number of elite athletes applying for undergraduate courses 40 CAO performance points. They are rolling out a similar practice under a new Creative Arts Scholarship scheme (see below).

NUI Maynooth, DCU and University College Dublin offer limited places onto undergraduate courses through their Elite Sportspersons Schemes, whereby students are not assessed solely on academic performance (ie points attained in school leaving examinations), but where sporting achievements are also considered. These are designed to cater for top athletes whose CAO points tally may have suffered due to training commitments.

University of Limerick also offers the Stuart Mangan scholarship, which provides an annual educational grant of up to €25,000 to an awardee who has suffered paralysis while competing in sport.

Artistic achievement

Trinity College Dublin offers eight choral scholarships. NUI Galway will reward 15 students with exceptional achievements in selected disciplines in the creative arts with 40 CAO ‘performance points’ for entry into undergraduate courses. The minimum CAO requirement is 350 points. UCC award two An Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann scholarships to Irish traditional musicians who wish to study music in first year of the BA or BMus degree.

Other financial scholarships

The Naughton Scholarships are currently available in 20 counties, their aim being to promote the study of engineering, science and technology in third-level. Securing one of the scholarships is based on Leaving Certificate results in the applicable science and maths-related subjects.

The Donogh O’Malley scholarship scheme was designed with top performing Leaving Certificate students from disadvantaged backgrounds in mind. Scholarships are awarded on a regional basis.

Other options

Some local credit unions run scholarship draws or sponsor awards. For example, Bandon Credit Union held a draw for 10 scholarships to the value of €500 each for third-level students. UCC also have the Tony Burke/ St Michael’s Credit Union Bursary and Tralee Credit Union sponsor two scholarships at IT Tralee.

Top Security sponsor the Father Frank Maher Classical Music Awards, open to any sixth-year students of strings, woodwind and brass and piano only. The bursary – €3,000 – is the largest classical music award in Ireland.

SIPTU offers a range of scholarships each year for members and their children. Scholarships are available for both third-level and second-level institutions. Applications are available at members’ local SIPTU branch.

UL also have the Elaine Fagan Scholarship Fund which is open to first-year undergraduates from the Mid-West region who have entered the college through the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE).

All-Ireland Scholarships

The All-Ireland Scholarship Scheme was established in 2008 through a donation of €30 million from JP McManus.


Mikeala Morris, Kildimo Co Limerick, and Kate Burke, Balinasloe Co Glaway with JP McManus and Republic of Ireland soccer manager, Martin O'Neill.

It provides third-level scholarships of a value of €6,750 annually to 125 top performing Leaving Certificate students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Up to 100 scholarships are made available in the Republic and 25 in the North, with a minimum of two awarded in each county each year.

Candidates must be recognised as being from a socio-economically disadvantaged background. Selection is based on candidates’ results from their five best subjects.

One of the 2014 recipients of the award was Mikeala Morris, from Kildimo, Co Limerick, who went to Salesian Secondary School and is studying radiography at UCD.

“I was genuinely shocked when I first found out I was a recipient. It undoubtedly lifted a weight off my shoulders financially between university fees, books, accommodation and transport,” said Mikeala.

The All-Ireland Scholarship Scheme is expected to run for 10 years or so.

To be eligible for the scholarship, a student must be also to show exemption from the Leaving Cert examination fee or receipt of the Educational Maintenance Allowance in the North.

“I will always be grateful to JP Mc Manus for providing me with this scholarship. Once I’m finished this degree I’d like to specialise further in one of the imaging modalities like MRI or ultrasound”.

Clongowes Wood College: Alberto Hurtado Bursary Programme

Clongowes Wood College in Clane, Co Kildare is a Jesuit Catholic College. Past famous pupils include Ireland rugby players, David and Rob Kearney and Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney. A seven-day boarding school, 43 students attend the college through its Alberto Hurtado Bursary Programme.

Fr Leonard Moloney, Headmaster of the College says the programme was set up in 2006 out of a desire for Clongowes Wood to better meet the Jesuit aims of inclusion and social justice.

“The programme is designed to ensure that a child’s financial or social circumstances are not a barrier to receiving a Jesuit education in Clongowes”.

The cost for each AHP student is approximately €20,000 per annum, which covers the full cost of attendance, including boarding. Funding for the project comes from philanthropic gifts. There is no differentiation made between AHP students and other fee-paying students, with the identity of AHP students only revealed on a need-to-know basis.

- Applicants are assessed on the following criteria:

- The financial means of their family/guardians

- Educational background of their parents/guardians

- Parental/guardian support for the application

- Suitability of the student to life in a boarding school environment

Applicants submit an application form, along with the relevant documentation by December 31 of the year preceding their entry into secondary school. They are encouraged to visit the school with their parents/guardians, following which they are contacted by the college to arrange an interview in their homes.

Interviews usually take place between January and April with bursaries being offered by mid-April.

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