HEAR and DARE Schemes, which need to be applied for by March 1, provide disadvantaged students with extra support in accessing third level.

There are many reasons why Leaving Certificate students suffer disadvantage in terms of accessing third level education. The HEAR and DARE schemes seek to level the playing field for students in such circumstances. The schemes are operated on a national level in most universities, colleges and Institutes of Technology and both can be applied for through the student’s CAO application.

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a college and university admissions scheme which offers places on reduced points and extra college support to school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. HEAR Applicants must meet a range of financial, social and cultural indicators to be considered for a reduced points place and extra college support.


The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a college and university admissions scheme which offers places on a reduced point’s basis to school leavers with disabilities. DARE is for school-leavers who have the ability to benefit from and succeed in higher education but who may not be able to meet the points for their preferred course due to the impact of their disability. It includes a wide variety of categories such as specific learning difficulty, physical disability, mental health condition, speech and language difficulties, and significant ongoing illness as well as others.


To apply for either or both schemes students must have applied to the CAO by February 1, then apply for the HEAR and/or DARE schemes by March 1 (online through CAO), and finally send off all supporting documentation to CAO by March 15. All deadlines are strict. All information on both schemes can be found on www.accesscollege.ie.



Niamh Dwyer is a guidance counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore and is PRO of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors.

Email: careerfocusnow@gmail.com.