The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)

What is HEAR?

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a college and university scheme which offers places on reduced points and extra college support to school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are resident in the Republic of Ireland.

HEAR has been set up by a number of colleges and universities as evidence shows that long-term poverty can have a negative effect on how well a student does at school and whether they go on to college.

Who can apply to HEAR?

HEAR is for school leavers under the age of 23 as of 1 January 2021 who are resident in the Republic of Ireland. HEAR applicants must meet a range of financial, social and cultural indicators to be considered for a reduced points place and extra college support.

What are the benefits of HEAR?

Reduced Points Places: Each participating college has a reserved number of places to offer eligible HEAR students at lower Leaving Certificate points.

Extra College Support: If you get a place through HEAR you will receive a variety of academic, personal and social supports while at college.

Examples of extra college supports may include:

  • An Orientation Programme to introduce you to college life.
  • Extra tuition if required, study skills and exam preparation.
  • One to one meetings with student advisors.
  • Social gatherings/mentoring.
  • Extra financial assistance when available/advice regarding grants and scholarships.

What HEAR is not...

HEAR is not your maintenance grant (SUSI grant). The maintenance grant is the main source of financial assistance available from the Irish State for students in full-time Post Leaving Certificate Courses (PLCs) and full-time higher education undergraduate courses.

HEAR is an admissions scheme to help students who may not traditionally go on to third level. Students applying to HEAR are encouraged to find out more information on the maintenance grant by logging on to Additional information on financial assistance for third level students is available at

Should I apply?

HEAR applicants must meet a range of financial, social and cultural indicators (criteria) to be considered for a reduced points place and extra college support. Here is a list of all the HEAR indicators:

  1. Income: Your family income falls on or below the HEAR Income Limit for the year 2019.
  2. Medical/ GP Visit Card: Your family has a Medical Card / GP Visit Card that was in date on 31 December 2020.
  3. Means Tested Social Welfare: Your family received a means-tested payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for at least 26 weeks in 2019.
  4. Socio-economic Group: You belong to a group that is under-represented in higher education based on the occupation and employment status of your parent(s) or guardian(s). The under-represented groups are the Non-Manual Workers Group and the Semi and Unskilled Manual Workers Group.
  5. DEIS School Attendance: You completed five years in a second level school that takes part in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) scheme run by the Department of Education and Skills.
  6. Area Profile: You live in an area where there is concentrated disadvantage – in other words an area where, for example, there is high unemployment and poverty and where only a small proportion of adults have attained third level education.

You must meet Indicator 1, the HEAR Income Limit, plus a correct combination of 2 other indicators to be eligible for HEAR.  The combinations are:




1 plus 2 plus 4 or 5 or 6



1 plus 3 plus 4 or 5 or 6


1 plus 4 plus 5 or 6


1 plus 5 plus 6


Indicator 1, the HEAR Income Limit, is calculated by:

  •  How many children there are in your family;
  •  How many people in your family are in full time education;

Use the table to estimate if your family income is equal to or less than the HEAR income limit for the year 2019.

Number of dependent children* in your family HEAR Income Limit
Fewer than 4  €45,790
4-7  €50,325
8 or more  €54,630
Add €4,670 to the total family/household income for every sibling/parent enrolled in a full time college, university or post leaving certificate course.

*A dependant includes:

    • a sibling under the age of 16 years on 1 October 2020
    • a sibling over the age of 16 years on 1 October 2020 who is either:
- attending post primary education
- attending a full time course in FET or higher education
- medically certified as permanently unfit for work
      • a parent attending full time course in FET or higher education
From November 2020
Review the HEAR Handbook with your parent(s)/guardian(s).
Make a CAO application at
Fill in the online HEAR Application at
Gather your documentation. 

Remember, they can take several weeks to issue.

By 1 February 2021
Apply to CAO by 17:15 on 1 February.

By 1 March 2021
Complete all elements of the online HEAR Application Form by 17:15 on 1 March. 
Gather all supporting documents relevant to your application.
By 15 March 2021 Submit copies of supporting documents to CAO, Tower House, Eglinton Street, Galway by 17:15 on 15 March.

April - June 2021

In late June 2021

Assessment of HEAR applications.

You will be notified of the outcome of your HEAR application by the end of June.

End June/Early July 2021
HEAR Review and Appeals Application.
August 2021
Leaving Certificate exam results.
CAO offers.
Successful HEAR Applicants notified.
Accept CAO offer.
Accept HEAR offer of extra college supports.
Late August/Early September 2021 Attend mandatory HEAR orientation programme.

Where can I find out more information on HEAR?

HEAR organises Application Information Days each year.  Application Information Days provide an opportunity for you and/or your parent(s)/guardian(s) to drop in to meet a member of the HEAR team to discuss your application.  The Application Information Days will take place online for 2021.  Further information on HEAR applications days 2021 will be published on

You can also contact the CAO Helpdesk with questions on completing a HEAR application.  The simplest way to contact the CAO is by clicking on the 'Contact Us' button on  Alternatively, you can call the helpdesk at 091-509 800.

HEAR will only discuss details of your application with you or your parent(s)/guardian(s).

All participating colleges have a staff member who can advise you on how to apply to HEAR.  If you wish to speak to someone about your HEAR application, contact any member of the HEAR team.  Their contact details are provided here:

Click here for HEAR contact details

Click here for a list of Participating Colleges

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