Monday 23 January 2017

Advantages of applying for the HEAR scheme

Published 09/12/2015 | 02:30

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin

The final part of the CAO form to be filled out by some students is the section for the HEAR scheme.

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HEAR is a reduced points entry scheme for students who are affected by educational disadvantage, while it also offers additional financial academic and social supports whilst attending third level.

In order to be eligible for HEAR there are a number of criteria that must be met, the first of which relates to income. Total family income must be less than €45,790 for families with four children or fewer. There are higher income thresholds for families with more than four children. If intending applicants do not meet the income criterion they will not qualify for HEAR. If an applicant does meet this criterion, they will also need to meet a number of other criteria before they will qualify for the programme.

The other criteria include: a medical card or a GP visit card, means tested social welfare payments, membership of a socio economic group which is under represented at third level including, non-manual workers, semi-skilled manual workers, unskilled manual workers and agricultural workers, attending a DEIS school, and living in an area of concentrated disadvantage or social exclusion.

Any young person who is in the care of the state will automatically qualify for HEAR, however, they will still need to complete the application. In addition, young people who qualify for both HEAR and the DARE scheme will be given priority in recognition of this dual challenge.

It is worth noting that HEAR is intended to support students who are affected by severe educational disadvantage and not for students who may be affected by low income alone. This second group will be better assisted by the SUSI maintenance grant.

While the majority of third level institutions participate in the HEAR scheme not every college does. Applicants can find the list of participating colleges on accesscollege.ie/hear/participating-colleges/. If the institution you wish to attend is not participating in HEAR they almost certainly have a similar scheme and the applicant should contact the admissions office to enquire about the process in that particular institution.

If a CAO applicant thinks that they may qualify for HEAR they should begin their CAO application as soon as possible if they have not already done so. When applicants come to the account home page they will see that the very last section is for those who wish to make a HEAR application. Applicants should click on the blue button and begin answering the questions which appear online. They will be required to indicate their intention to apply for the HEAR scheme by February 1. After this, applicants will be required to provide information on family status, medical cards and social welfare payments income etc. So, it is very helpful if the applicant completes this section with a parent.

Once applicants complete the online section (this must be done by March 1) the CAO will generate a list of documents which they will need to provide. The content of this list is based on the answers given and may be different for each applicant. These documents must be gathered and posted to the CAO in Galway by April 1.

For more information, see accesscollege.ie or attend one of the HEAR application clinics which will take place nationwide on January 16, 2016.

*Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin

Question: I want to go back to study the BEd and I have applied to CAO. How difficult is it to gain entry as a mature student?

Aoife replies: Each college has its own ideas on what they are looking for. You may be asked to take an entrance assessment, attend an interview, complete a supplementary information form or a combination of all of these. As you are interested in primary school teaching, it is worth mentioning that teaching colleges, in particular, have a long tradition of accepting and supporting mature students.

There are a number of things you should do to ensure that you are in the best possible position, including careful reading of pages 23-24 of the CAO handbook, contacting the admissions offices to see what they want, and brushing up on Irish oral language skills.

Irish Independent

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