What Supports Might Help You To Get Into College?

Supports Available For Disadvantaged Students:

Access Programmes are used to assist school-leavers who have experienced disadvantages throughout their post-primary education. These programmes can support eligible applicants to gain access to courses in Higher Education on a reduced points entry basis.

There are two main Access Programmes that run in conjunction with the CAO and these are the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) and the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE).   

Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)

The HEAR scheme was introduced to provide places in college courses as well as extra educational support for school leavers coming from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.

To successfully apply for the HEAR scheme, prospective students must fit certain financial, social and cultural criteria to be deemed eligible.

There are six numbered indicators that measure eligibility for the HEAR scheme.

All applicants must fall under indicator Number 1: The HEAR Income Limit which is:

€45,7590 for a family with less than 4 dependent children
€50,325 for a family with 4-7 dependent children
€54,630 for a family with 8 or more dependent children

There is an addition on these limits of €4,670 for a sibling or parent already enrolled in a full time college, university or PLC course.

Alongside this income indicator, applicants must also meet a combination of two other specific indicators which are:

Number 2: Having a Medical Card or GP Visit Card which is valid up to and including December 31st 2019

Number 3: Your family has received a means tested Social Welfare payment from the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection for at least 26 weeks during the 2018 calendar year.

Number 4:  You belong to a group that is underrepresented in higher education based on the occupation and employment status of your parent(s) or guardian(s). The underrepresented groups are the Non-Manual Workers Group and the Semi and Unskilled Manual Workers Group

Number 5: You completed five years in a second level school that takes part in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) scheme run by the Department of Education and Skills.

Number 6: You live in an area where there is concentrated disadvantage – in other words an area where, for example, there is high unemployment and poverty and where only a small proportion of adults have attained third level education.

The combination of qualifying indicators are as follows:

Indicator 1 + 2 + 4 or 5 or 6       Indicator 1 + 4 + 5 or 6

Indicator 1 + 3 + 4 or 5 or 6      Indicator 1 + 5 + 6

The HEAR Handbook for 2020 contains an in-depth guide on all aspects of this access scheme as well as detailed description on how to submit your application and you can view it by clicking here.

Disability Access Route to Education (DARE)

The DARE scheme is used to provide access to third-level education for school-leavers who have disabilities that have impacted negatively on their second-level education.

Applicants for this scheme must also meet certain indicators to be deemed eligible for assistance through DARE.

There are 6 possible criteria and out of these all applicants must meet 2 of these, however in the case of those with specific learning difficulties they must meet indicator number 6 along with one other, those who do not cite a specific learning impairment must meet 2 factors from 1-5.

Number 1: Received special supports or intervention during post-primary school or in exams

Number 2: Disability has limited a person’s school attendance or regularly disrupted the school day

Number 3: Disability has had an adverse effect on school experience and wellbeing

Number 4: Disability has impacted learning experience or exam results

Number 5: Any other significant educational disruption

Number 6: Specific learning disability is severely impacting on literacy or numeracy skills

The DARE Handbook for 2020 has a detailed guide on all the information you will need including disability criteria definitions and a step by step guide on how to apply. You can access this handbook by clicking here

Key Dates

All applicants must be aware that they have to be under the age of 23 as of 1 January 2020.

HEAR & DARE applications run closely with the CAO application timeline with regards to deadlines. While completing your CAO application you will be given the option to let the CAO you are also looking to apply for the HEAR and/or DARE schemes. This must be confirmed before 5:15 PM on March 1st 2020.

All supporting documents for HEAR and DARE must be submitted to the CAO office before 5:15 PM on March 15th. Applicants should note that they should send copies of documents via post rather than fax or email.

Applications will be reviewed over the course of April and June and applicants will know their results by the end of June, applicants deemed ineligible for the HEAR or DARE schemes can appeal the decision shortly after.

Applicants that qualify for a place on a course through HEAR will be notified shortly after the CAO offers are released in August. These students can then accept the course they have chosen alongside HEAR. Following the acceptance of these places, all students qualifying through the HEAR scheme must attend a special orientation programme shortly before the start of the academic year in late August or early September. 

Access Routes for Mature Students

Students are considered as ‘Mature Students’ if they are 23 years of age or older before January 1st in the year in which they apply. There are options for Mature Students to avail of special access routes, however there is no centralized application portal for this and instead, applicants must get in contact with their chosen college or university’s own access office to see if they are eligible.

Participating Institutions:

Athlone IT     Cork IT     Dublin City University     Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology

Dundalk IT     Galway-Mayo IT     IT Sligo     IT Tralee     Marino Institute of Education     

Letterkenny IT     Mary Immaculate College     Maynooth University     National College of Ireland

NUI Galway     Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland      St. Angela’s College     Trinity College Dublin

TU Dublin – Blanchardstown     TU Dublin – Dublin City     TU Dublin – Tallaght     

University College Cork     University College Dublin     University of Limerick     

Waterford Institute of Technology

More Information:

For further information on the HEAR and DARE schemes as well as a range of other available supports, visit our dedicated Student Support section by clicking here.

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