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Mature Students

Blackrock Further Education Institute welcomes mature applicants and encourages their return to study. Mature applicants are eligible to apply for any of our courses if they wish to broaden their education and skills and develop new interests. A substantial number of mature students enrol each year and the Institute believes that the contribution of mature students is valuable and beneficial to the Institute as a whole.

Who is a mature student?

We define a mature student as someone over 21.

How do I apply to BFEI as a mature student?

To apply as a mature student, you should click on Apply Now.

I don't have the entry requirements for the course I would like to do as I left school early - can I still apply?

If you don't have the minimum entry requirements, your application will be considered on the basis of age, experience and overall demonstrable ability.

Are there any special courses for mature students?

All our courses are open to mature applicants. We don't offer courses just for mature applicants so most classes have a mixture of ages. Certain courses are very popular with mature applicants and, although full-time, are timetabled in the mornings only (between 8.50am and 1.00/2.00pm).

I'm doing the Leaving Cert Applied (LCA) this year - can I apply to BFEI next year?

Yes, people who have done the LCA and LCVP may apply for all courses. You need to submit details of achievements in writing.

How do I find out more about courses in BFEI?

Information on all courses is available on the day courses section of this website and in the Institute’s brochure. BFEI hosts a number of Open Days during the year which prospective students are invited to attend.

I am invited to attend a personal advisory meeting for the course I want to do. What will this involve?

Personal advisory meetings are usually only about 10/15 minutes long. They are conducted by tutors on the course who generally want to find out whether you are familiar with the career area, why you want to pursue this area of study and what your future career plans are. It is also an opportunity for you to find out more about the course and whether it is the right choice for you.

Are there any part-time courses?

Although some courses are timetabled in the mornings only, they are full-time courses in terms of workload and commitment. We also offer evening courses in which you can work towards professional qualifications over 1 or 2 academic years. Students usually attend 2 evenings a week for 3 hours per evening.

There is also the possibility of taking individual subjects on whole-time day courses. This allows you the possibility of building towards a qualification over a longer period. This arrangement is at the discretion of the Principal and only applies if there are vacant places at the commencement of the course.

Is there any funding available?

Students in Further Education Colleges can apply for the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) and the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) - contact your Social Welfare office for more information. You should refer to the section on Financial Support.

 You may also be eligible for a maintenance grant - this is a means tested payment for people who want to go to College or University.

Do I have to pay tuition fees in BFEI?

There are no tuition fees for EU nationals. The fee, determined by the Irish Government, for students who are non-EU nationals is currently €3653 (subject to change). In addition, each course will have some associated costs and these costs vary from course to course. You will be sent this information when you are offered a place. In general, you will have to pay for books, exams fees, a student services charge and a PLC Government Levy. There are usually costs specific to different courses, for example, drawing boards and art equipment in design courses.

How do I know if I am really suitable for a particular course?

It is very important that you research the course by reading about careers in your chosen area or speaking to tutors in the Institute or in the Institute of Guidance Counsellors. If you are really unsure about your suitability for the course or what a career in this area might entail, it would be a good idea to make an appointment with an educational or career guidance counsellor. This would give you the opportunity to have an assessment of your skills and interests and discuss everything in more depth.

Dublin & Dún Laoghaire Education & Training Board's (DDLETB) Adult Guidance Service offers advice, guidance, and information on education, training and careers to adult learners taking part in our adult education programmes including those on Adult Literacy, VTOS and Community Education programmes. They are keen to help those who feel that they did not do well at school or who left school early and who now want a second chance to improve their education.

The guidance service can help you to:

  • Identify your skills, interests and goals in life
  • Explore your learning options and ways of moving forward
  • Overcome issues that may be holding you back
  • Find the support you need to achieve your goals

The guidance service offers: 

  • One to one or group based educational guidance
  • Assistance on returning to education
  • Full time, part time and distance courses

The guidance service is: 

  • Free of charge
  • Confidential
  • Friendly and supportive

To get a list of guidance counsellors who work privately, you can contact the Institute of Guidance Counsellors on 01 676 1975 or email office@igc.ie

How can I prepare to start back as a full-time student?

You could:

  • Find out as much as you can about the courses on offer and the commitment involved.
  • Plan your finances well in advance - a course can be very difficult if you have to do a lot of part-time work to survive and then don't have enough time to meet the demands of the course. This might take some organisation depending on your financial situation but it is important to make sure you can afford to go back to College. You should check your eligibility for any Social Welfare payments or educational grants.
  • If necessary, have a meeting with an educational guidance counsellor.
  • Brush up on your study skills. There are lots of good books with advice on studying, time management, taking notes and doing exams - make an appointment to see one of the Institute's Guidance Counsellors early on in the academic year to get more help and advice on how to study.
Does BFEI have any particular supports for mature students?

Each year we invite mature students to attend a meeting where they have an opportunity to meet other mature students, the mature student 'contact' person in the Institute and the Guidance Counsellors. Each course in BFEI is assigned a Course Co-ordinator who you can approach if you have any difficulties on your course.

When will I hear if I have been accepted on the course of my choice?

Applications are acknowledged on receipt of an application. A place is reserved for you subject to you meeting the entry requirements on a first come basis.

Some 'challenges' you face as a mature student

Studying at a Further Education College can be particularly demanding for mature students. Mature students typically face life circumstances that from time to time interfere with academic commitments.

These include:

  • The demands of various 'life' roles. Roles as parents, partners, income earners and caretakers of elderly relatives are difficult to juggle on top of study. These demands can be unpredictable. Care and concern for a sick child the day before an assignment is due can place overwhelming pressure on a mature student.
  • Choosing to study may mean financial sacrifices. Pressure to pay the rent, mortgage, food, electricity and telephone bills as well as having enough money for unexpected expenses can create on-going anxiety. 
  • The demands of lone parenting as a mature student can be especially difficult. Being the only parent available to attend to a child's needs may mean that mature students who are lone parents are constantly caring for others with less likelihood of receiving support and 'time out' for themselves.
  • Beginning study after a long break from academic work can be scary. Mature students often face fears of 'not being able to make the grade.'
  • The risk of burnout can be high for mature students. Pre-existing time commitments can make study at College a pressured experience.
  • Becoming a student at a mature age can feel lonely. Friends and family may not always be supportive and offer less than useful advice. The dominant age group of other students in the College may create a sense of isolation or 'not fitting in.' The circumstances of other students may feel very different from your own.
Mature Students - What can help?

Establish support networks with friends, family and other students before you need them. Support networks involve people available to help out when necessary. This might include a baby-sitting club, which works on a reciprocal basis.

Develop connections with other mature students in order to share experiences. For information about setting up a mature students support group at the Institute, contact Odette Lawlor (olawlor@bfei.ie).

Fine tune your time management skills to ensure you keep up with College work as much as possible. This helps avoid getting behind when something unexpected comes along. Your Course Coordinator and the Guidance Counsellors are available to assist you in this area as well as with any other study skills you may need to develop.

Organise your finances before you start a course - check if you are eligible for any grants (VTOS, Back to Education Allowance, maintenance grants). Find out about the different costs on a particular course and the expenses of being a full-time student.

Give yourself permission to study. Sometimes study comes last on the list of 'things to do' because of a belief that other people come first. Study is part of your work and you are entitled to give it the attention it requires.

Believe in yourself. Remember that mature students often do very well at College. This success reflects their commitment, enthusiasm and life experience.

Ask for help if you need it. You deserve to be supported!
 

Useful Contacts

Guidance Counsellor with responsibility for Mature Students - Odette Lawlor; you can contact her on email at: olawlor@bfei.ie
  

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