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Going to College: The HEAR & DARE Schemes

HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) and DARE (Disability Access Route) are third level admissions schemes which promote equity of access to higher education for school leavers either from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds or school leavers with a disability or significant ongoing illness.


(Jump to DARE.)

HEAR is the scheme for school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

How the HEAR scheme works

Participating third-level colleges has a reserved number of places on each course for school-leavers eligible for HEAR. Details of participating third-level colleges available through HEAR are on the websites of the participating third-level colleges.

You apply for HEAR through the Central Applications Office (CAO). Once you have been accepted as eligible for HEAR, you then compete for the reduced point places based on your Leaving Certificate results. A reduced point place means that you may get a place on a third-level course with fewer than the full CAO points. For example, if you are eligible for HEAR and you get 350 Leaving Certificate points, you may be offered a place on a course that is 360 points through CAO. However, you must meet the college matriculation and any specific course entry requirements.

Eligibility for the HEAR scheme:

To be eligible for HEAR you must meet certain indicators or criteria related to your financial, social and economic circumstances.

You must also be under 23 years of age on 1st January of the year the course starts.

Financial (for HEAR application process 2023): You must meet a combination of indicators –

Indicator 1 + 2 + 4, 5 or 6
Indicator 1 + 3 + 4, 5 or 6
Indicator 1 + 4 + 5 or 6
Indicator 1 + 5 + 6

  1. Income: Your total family income (that is gross income before tax and PRSI are deducted) for the year 2021 was within the HEAR income limits (see link below)
  2. Medical card: You, your parent(s) or guardian(s) hold a medical card or GP visit card on 31 December 2022
  3. Social welfare: Your parent(s) or guardian(s) were getting a means-tested social assistance payment for at least 26 weeks in 2021
    Social and cultural:
  4. Group: You come from a socio-economic group that is under-represented in higher education, for example: non-manual workers; semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers; agricultural workers
  5. School: You have completed 5 years of second-level education at a school in the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) programme
  6. Area: You are living in an area of concentrated disadvantage and social exclusion with, for example, high unemployment and poverty and few community facilities.

  • Number of dependent* children in your family
  • Hear Income Limit
  • Fewer than 4
  • €46,790
  • 4-7
  • €51,325
  • More than 8
  • €56,630

*A dependant includes:
  • a sibling under the age of 16 years on 1 October 2022.
  • a sibling over the age of 16 years on 1 October 2022 who is either:
    • attending post primary education.
    • attending a full-time course in FET or higher education.
    • medically certified as permanently unfit for work.
  • a parent attending a full-time course in FET or higher education

How to apply

If you wish to apply for a college place under the HEAR scheme you should apply online through the CAO. Your CAO application must reach the CAO by 5.15 pm 1 February 2023. Late CAO applications are not considered for HEAR.

When you are filling in the online CAO form you must complete the part of the form to say you wish to apply for the HEAR scheme. You will then be directed to a separate HEAR application form. You must complete this part of your application by 1 March 2023.

See the full timeline here.
View Extended RACE Information Leaflet Here
Information obtained from Citizens Information and For more information visit through


DARE is the scheme for school leavers with a disability or significant ongoing illness.

How the DARE scheme works

The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a third level alternative admissions scheme for school leavers whose disabilities have had a negative impact on their second level education.

DARE offers reduced points places to school leavers who, as a result of having a disability, have experienced additional educational challenges in second level education.

DARE is for school leavers with a disability under the age of 23 as of 1 January 2023, who have been educationally impacted as a result of that disability. Applicants to DARE can present with an Irish Leaving Certificate, A-Levels and other EU qualifications.

View Extended DARE Information Leaflet HERE

The Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) is a voluntary organisation that promotes the participation of students with disabilities in third-level education. The AHEAD website has a range of information about educational supports for students with disabilities at third level. There is also information about accessing college.

The AHEAD website also has a list of other student services.

To be eligible for DARE, you must meet both the evidence of disability criteria and educational impact criteria (see below for more detail).

Eligibility for the DARE scheme and How to Apply:
When applying to DARE, applicants must meet the following criteria:
  1. Be under the age of 23 as of 1 January 2023.
  2. Apply to the CAO by 17:00 on 1 February 2023.
  3. No later than 17:00 on 1 March 2023, disclose your disability and/ or specific learning difficulty in your CAO application and fully and correctly complete Section A of the Supplementary Information Form (SIF). To apply to DARE, you must answer YES to Question 1 (‘Do you wish to be considered for DARE?’) on Section A of the fully completed SIF by 17:00 on 1 March 2023.
  4. Download Section B Educational Impact Statement (EIS) and have your school complete the form. Return the EIS to the CAO to arrive by 17:00 on 15 March 2023.
  5. Download Section C Evidence of Disability, and have it completed by the appropriate medical professional (only if you do not already have a report verifying your disability that meets the DARE criteria). Return it to the CAO to arrive by 17:00 on 15 March 2023.

Can you apply for both HEAR and DARE?

You can apply to both schemes if you meet requirements for both schemes. You must submit all the documents needed for both schemes before the deadlines.

Helpful information and links:
Information on the HEAR scheme: ACCESS College
Citizens Information
Information on the DARE scheme: ACCESS College
Citizens Information
Participating colleges listed here:
Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD): Student Services