The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)

What is the Higher Education Access Route (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, resident in the Repbulic of Ireland, who are under represented at Higher Education due to their socio-economic background.

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.

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 filling in a HEAR Application?

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 meeting 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.  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

Who can apply to HEAR?

HEAR is for school leavers under the age of 23 as of 1 January 2022 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.

How do I fill in a HEAR application?

Applicants applying to HEAR must:

1. Be under the age of 23 as of 1 January 2022.

2. Apply online to CAO by 17:00 on 1 February 2022.  CAO applications open on 5 November 2021 at 12 noon.

3. No later than 17:00 on 1 March 2022, indicate on your CAO application that you wish to apply for the HEAR scheme and fully and correctly complete all elements of the online HEAR application form.  Once you have completed the HEAR application form you will get a checklist which tell you which documents you need to supply.

4. Post your supporting documents to arrive in CAO no later than 17:00 on 15 March 2022.

To complete your online HEAR Application you must:

Get assistance from your parent(s)/guardian(s).
Use the HEAR 2022 Handbook to help you answer all relevant questions on your online HEAR application.
You can download the HEAR 2022 Handbook at 
From November 2021
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 2022
Apply to CAO by 17:00 on 1 February.

By 1 March 2022
Complete all elements of the online HEAR Application Form by 17:00 on 1 March. 
Gather all supporting documents relevant to your application.
By 15 March 2022

Submit copies of supporting documents to CAO, Tower House, Eglinton Street, Galway by 17:00 on 15 March.

Make sure your copies are clear and can be easily read.  Please number each page and write your CAO application number and the date on the front of each page.  Faxed/emailed documents are not accepted.

Keep the original of all documents and obtain a certificate of posting from An Post every time you post supporting documents to CAO.

For confirmation that the documents you posted arrived safely in CAO, enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard with details of the documents you have submitted.

April - June 2022

In late June 2022

HEAR Application Assessment.

Applicants notified of outcome of HEAR application.

End June/Early July 2022
HEAR Review and Appeals Application.
August 2022
Leaving Certificate exam results.
CAO offers.
Successful HEAR Applicants notified.
Accept CAO offer.
Accept HEAR offer of extra college supports.
Late August/Early September 2022 Attend mandatory HEAR orientation programme.

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 2020.
  2. Medical/ GP Visit Card: Your family has a Medical Card / GP Visit Card that was in date on 31 December 2021.
  3. Means Tested Social Welfare: Your family received a means-tested payment from the Department of Social Protection for at least 26 weeks in 2020.
  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.

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 dependent includes: 

  • a sibling under the age of 16 year on 1 October 2021
  • a sibling over the age of 16 years on 1 October 2021 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 a full time course in FET or higher education

HEAR Application Information Days - See details at:

Click here to view a full list of participating Colleges

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