Going to College: DARE lower points programme covers a wide range of illnesses and conditions
DARE stands for the Disability Access Route to Education, and is intended to redress the balance, somewhat, for students who experience a negative impact on their education as a result of a disability or specific learning difficulty.
While many colleges participate in DARE, some do not, but tend to operate their own version. If a student intends to apply for a college that does not participate in DARE, they should contact the admissions office or disability support office to get more information on any access schemes.
DARE covers a wide range of illnesses and conditions, many of which may not be considered a disability by the sufferer. Therefore, any young person who has had any type of illness, injury, difficulty or learning challenge that they feel prevented them from reaching their full potential should thoroughly investigate this scheme.
DARE offers eligible applicants the opportunity to avail of reduced points entry to CAO courses. It is not related to college supports - applicants who do not qualify for DARE may still access supports.
Eligibility is based on evidence of a disability and educational impact of this disability.
Applicants use the section on the CAO form entitled 'disability/specific learning difficulty' to indicate they have a difficulty. The first step must be completed by February 1.
The second step, applying for DARE, involves providing information, such as the type of disability or difficulty experienced, as well as supports received during second level. The deadline for this is March 1.
Students may also submit a paragraph on their experiences in second level. This is an opportunity to explain the challenges they face and should starkly reflect their day to day experiences. Many students who qualify for DARE have learned to be positive in the face of adversity. However, this is not the time or place to minimise their difficultly - it is the time to tell it like it is.
Section B of the form is the educational impact statement, which should be completed by the school in the presence of the applicant. The deadline is April 1, but there can be a large number of applicants in any school, so do not leave this until March. Applicants should find out who the relevant staff member is and flag that they will be making this application. Section C should also be printed off as soon as possible and given to the relevant medical professional, often a consultant or specialist, to be completed. Tackling this task early can be key to success and keeping stress at a minimum.
Further information, as well as helpful video guides and workbooks, can be found on accesscollege.ie. Nationwide advice clinics will be held on January 19 from 10pm-2pm. Check the website for venues.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin