Tuesday 25 June 2019

Opening the door to college for all students

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Aoife Walsh

Two schemes, known as DARE and HEAR, ease access to third-level for students suffering educational or social disadvantage.

DARE is for students who experience a negative impact on their second-level education as a result of a disability or specific learning difficulty. It covers a wide range of illnesses and conditions and offers successful applicants entry to third-level on reduced points. It is for reduced-points entry only and is not related to supports in college. Many applicants who may not qualify for DARE can still access support at third level.

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Eligibility is based on evidence of both a disability and educational impact of this disability. DARE prioritises applicants who are eligible for both the HEAR and DARE schemes as well as applicants who have a physical or sensory disability.

HEAR allows applicants from a background of socio-economic disadvantage to enter third level on reduced points. Additionally, a variety of academic, personal and social supports may also be offered in college.

For example, some colleges prioritise HEAR students for on-campus accommodation. Orientation programmes, academic guidance, bursaries and scholarships are also commonplace.

For a full list of 2019 CAO courses, click here

HEAR applicants must meet a combination of a number of criteria in order to qualify for this scheme. Firstly, family income must be less than €45,790 if there are four or less children in the family. If this criterion is not met, there is no point proceeding to the others. The other criteria include holding a medical card, a parent or guardian being in receipt of means-tested social welfare payments, attending a DEIS school or coming from an under-represented socio-economic group or area. For more information on these criteria and the different acceptable combinations, interested applicants should visit accesscollege.ie.

Children who are, or have previously been, in the care of the State qualify for this scheme.

To apply for either DARE or HEAR, applicants must indicate their intention on their CAO form no later than February 1. Once they do this, they will be able to access an online form where they will be asked to enter information about their personal circumstances. This section must be completed no later than March 1. Applicants can save their work and return to the form at any stage.

Finally, DARE applicants will be required to submit an educational impact statement and evidence of disability documents, while HEAR applicants will also have to submit supporting documentation. These documents must reach the CAO in Galway no later than April 1.

Due to the nature of this scheme, all the above deadlines are quite strict, so if applicants to either scheme are in any doubt about how to proceed, they should consider attending one of the advice clinics being held around the country this month.

DARE and HEAR clinics

DARE and HEAR advice clinics will take place on Saturday, January 19 between 10am and 2pm at a number of venues nationwide. These are open to all CAO applicants, parents, guardians and guidance counsellors.


  • Carlow - IT Carlow
  • Cork - Devere Hall, UCC
  • Donegal - Villa Rose Hotel, Ballybofey
  • Dublin - DIT (The Courtyard, Aungier Street)
  • Galway - Institute for Lifecourse and Society (ILAS) Upper Newcastle Road, NUI Galway
  • Kildare - Maynooth University (North Campus)
  • Limerick - University of Limerick
  • Midlands - Athlone IT, Dublin Road
  • Monaghan - Glencarn Hotel, Castleblayney
  • Sligo - IT Sligo
  • Wexford - Library, Mallin Street

Additional advice clinics on other dates

  • Kerry - January 22, Rose Hotel, Tralee (5-8pm)
  • Waterford - January 24, Woodlands Hotel, Waterford (6-8pm)

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