You may be eligible for a DARE programme
Last week this column mentioned the section of the CAO form where applicants are asked to declare a disability or specific learning difficulty. This allows institutions to contact them to obtain further information about their needs and provides the opportunity to advise on the college supports available to them.
An applicant who does this will also have the opportunity to apply for the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) programme. Successful DARE applicants can compete for reduced points entry to CAO courses. It is important to understand that DARE is for reduced points entry only and is not related to supports. Applicants who may not qualify for DARE can still access support at third level. DARE eligibility is based on both evidence of a disability and educational impact of this disability.
DARE will consider applications from people who have a significant ongoing illness (including diabetes), mental health issues, learning difficulties, sensory issues, mobility issues, autism, dyspraxia etc.
It is not essential for applicants with a disability to apply through DARE, but if an applicant wishes to be considered there are a number of steps they must take.
Applicants must indicate their interest by February 1. Once an applicant has done this, a form requesting more information will appear. Applicants must complete this online section (Section A) by March 1. It contains two forms, which must be printed out, and filled out by the relevant professional. One is an Educational Impact statement (Section B) which must be completed by a learning support teacher, guidance counsellor, visiting teacher or year head, and the other is evidence of disability, to be completed by the relevant health care professional.
These forms and others requiring evidence of disability (such as psychological assessments, GP or consult letters etc.) should be forwarded to the CAO no later than April 1.
Both school and health care professionals can have a large number of these forms to complete at this time of year, so applicants must ensure they get the forms to the relevant people as early as possible.
Further information on evidence of disabilities, age limits of reports and application procedures in general can be found at accesscollege.ie.
Some colleges do not participate in DARE, but may operate their own version of this programme. If a student intends to apply apply to a college that does not participate in DARE it is important to contact the admissions office or disability support office to get more information on any access scheme.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin. * This column will return on Wednesday December 9.
Question: My son probably won’t qualify for a grant. What about scholarships? He wants to do medicine in UCC.
Aoife replies: All colleges offer scholarships and awards. Universities offer scholarships for applicants who achieve exceptionally high results at Leaving Cert, however criteria vary from institution to institution. Some automatically award these to anyone who has met certain requirements in the Leaving Cert; others require students to apply. Other forms of awards include sports scholarships. Many institutions offer scholarships for new entrants from an educationally disadvantaged background. In addition, institutions have their own scholarship programme for a variety of other areas.
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