CAO applications have closed, the Oral exams are a bit away still & the Mocks are over. But there are some very important college accommodation dates due around now that are easily overlooked.
Every year, after the Leaving Cert Results and CAO offers are out, the newspapers and airways are filled with the difficulties and costs of student accommodation. This is why closing dates from mid-February to the end of May are so important. On-Campus Accommodation applications open & close during this period.
Schools are focused -and rightly so – on the academic dates, so the college accommodation dates can be easily missed, especially by first-time parents. I speak from experience! Last year I very nearly missed one deadline, I made it with only minutes to spare, praying that my Wi-Fi would behave itself for once.
Treat the applications for accommodation as importantly as the CAO form. You will need to apply to each college and private operator individually. This will be time-consuming. The good news is that there is no fee to pay for applying. You are simply getting your student’s name into the lottery draw. Colleges with more than one set of campus accommodation usually only allow you to apply to one. Multiple applications are forbidden.
While every application form is different, for most you will need to know the Name & CAO code of the course the student intends studying, their CAO or Leaving Cert number, mobile phone number and email address. For GDPR purposes, the contact details should be of the student and not the parent. This means that all the correspondence will be between the student & the accommodation provider. Parents need to be aware of this so as not to miss any future deadlines!
Once the closing dates have passed, the lotteries for places will take place. If successful, your student will be advised, and a booking deposit will have to be paid to secure a place. This can be an expensive time, especially if your student has applied to a lot of different colleges. Again, different providers have different policies when it comes to refunds, so it is important to read and become familiar with each. Most college accommodation will refund part or all the booking fee if the student is not offered a place in the college.
As many students will have applied to multiple accommodation providers and been offered places, come September, as the CAO offers roll-out, these places will become available again. If in August your student hasn’t gotten a place, it is important to keep ringing around. As one senior lecturer in UL told me – “the first month is pure pandemonium but then it all settles down”.
Some providers do not retain the names of the people who were unsuccessful in their lottery draw, so do not assume that they will contact you should a place become available. You will need to apply again.
There are alternatives to Campus / Student Accommodation. Each college has an accommodation office with dedicated staff to help. College notice boards, local papers, shop notice boards, even windows of rented houses in the vicinity of the college are good sources. Local estate agents, especially those with an online presence are also good. Daft.ie has a section devoted to student accommodation. Talk to former & current students – they will know of vacancies.
Finally, the traditional ‘going into digs’ has become popular again. The rent a room scheme gives homeowners a tax break on the rental income earned and this has enticed people back into the market. The quality of digs and/or house sharing has vastly improved, with many colleges inspecting the providers before allowing them onto their listings.
Finding accommodation for your college student is stressful and time-consuming, especially in the days and weeks after the CAO offers. Making an application for accommodation now and becoming familiar with the providers’ procedures can reduce or even eliminate that stress.
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