Kate Wood looks at the requirements in each college to be awarded a sports scholarship and speaks to a student who availed of them.
Today, universities are happy to reward talent on the pitch as well as in the classroom. Sporting scholarships are now offered in almost every third level institution in Ireland, giving students who excel at their chosen sport the chance to continue playing at a high level during their education.
 
A scholarship can only be received after the student has secured a course place through the CAO process. The terms and benefits of these scholarships vary from college to college. However, in order to keep these privileges, the student has certain responsibilities. They must attend weekly trainings, maintain their course work and promote their sport within the university.
 
Navigating your way through multiple college sites can be difficult, so here is a guide outlining exactly what colleges require and are offering those considering sport scholarship programmes.
 
Trinity College Dublin require applicants to demonstrate the capacity to play at county, national or international level. Preference is given to the college’s main sports; rowing, rugby, G.A.A., hockey, Olympic and Paralympic sports. Applications for other sports are examined case by case. Successful students will receive financial support of up to €3500 among other benefits.
 
Under its ‘Elite Athlete Development Programme’ DCU offer up to €3,000 in support services. Prospective applicants must at least play at senior club level and if awarded, students are expected to maintain commitment to training and competitions as well as contributing to coaching and administration. The closing date for 2017/18 applicants is 1st July 2017 (but 1st December 2017 for G.A.A. sports).
 
D.I.T’s ‘Elite Athlete Support Programme’ is also only eligible to those who have played for interprovincial (inter-county for G.A.A.) or international teams. Applications will not be taken after Friday 26th May 2017.
 
Taking a different approach, Maynooth University have individual requirements in rugby, soccer, golf, GAA and snooker. Students wishing to apply for scholarships in any other sport must have competed at an international level to be eligible. The live line for applications is now open and will close on the 1st April 2017.
 
Waterford IT offer their scholarships at three levels: gold, silver and bronze depending upon the individual’s potential and vary in value from €3,000 to €8,000. Those applying for rugby or soccer scholarships will be specifically required to play for both Waterford IT and Waterpark Rugby Club/ Waterford United respectively.
 
Similarly, University of Limerick organise scholarships under three levels, subsidising accommodation, training and gym membership valued at up to €10,000. Applicants will also be considered for more specific scholarships such as the ‘Paddy Dooley Rowing Scholarship’ and the ‘Michael Hillary and Jacinta O’Brien Athletic Scholarships’. Applications can be made on the UL website which closes March 1st 2017.
 
University College Cork (UCC) also expect applicants to have played at inter-county, national or international standard to be eligible for their scholarships. Closing date is 30th June 2017.
 
Student example: Michelle Clarke
 
Michelle attended DCU after her Leaving Cert and graduated in November 2016. She is now attending D.I.T for her postgraduate degree. Michelle was awarded a scholarship in both colleges, reflecting her achievements in basketball; playing on underage and senior International teams, captaining the Irish Colleges team last April and playing Superleague with her club Killester in North Dublin. She spoke to me about her experience of being under the scholarship programmes.
 
“Why did you apply for a basketball scholarship?”
‘I applied for scholarships because I always planned on playing college basketball so I may as well benefit from the supports they had to offer me. I’ve always worked hard to be as good as I can at basketball, which I don’t think is valued in our school system so it was nice to be rewarded for it with a scholarship.’
 
“How did you apply?”
‘For DCU I downloaded their application form from their website and sent it by post. After accepting my course in DCU I was called for an interview and after a few weeks found out my application was successful. For DIT, I filled in my application online and went for an interview during the summer before my first semester. It was different as I was provisionally offered the scholarship and place on my course but it couldn’t be confirmed until my results from DCU came through. Once I received my results I sent them onto DIT who then confirmed my scholarship and course place.’
 
“Did or do you have to do anything as part of your scholarship?”
‘In DCU I had to play on the fresher’s team in first year, as well as the varsity team each year. In second year I had to go on the ‘DCU Ladies’ Basketball Club’ committee and so I ran the section in my last two years. In DIT I just have to play on the varsity team for the year. It goes without saying but if I skipped training or failed any modules I would have been and will be in trouble so I’ve to stay on top of both.’
 
“Why is it worth going for a scholarship?”
‘There is a lot of support available from both colleges. Academically, you can receive tutoring regarding juggling sport and academics. At the moment I have an academic mentor to liaise between me and my lecturers if assignments or exams clash with my basketball matches or tournaments, which is really handy. I also have gym membership (and had one in DCU) with access to personal trainers, nutritional advice and funding. I never had time to get a part-time job due to college and basketball commitments. DIT is allowing me to study my masters for free which is brilliant and something most colleges don’t offer.’
 
Students considering a sporting scholarship in any college are advised to contact the colleges whose programmes most attract them to clarify any queries.