The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)

What is HEAR?

HEAR is a third level alternative admissions scheme for school leavers, resident in the Republic 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 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.  

Who can apply to HEAR?

HEAR is for school leavers under the age of 23 as of 1 January 2023 who are resident in the Republic of Ireland.

Mature and Further Education Training (FET) students have their own admissions routes and should contact college admissions offices for more information.

HEAR applications can only be made online.  No means other than by way of online submission of a HEAR application form will be accepted.

You should apply to both DARE and HEAR if they are relevant to you.

Applicants who apply and are deemed eligible for both DARE and HEAR will be prioritised by the participating colleges and universities when offering their reduced points places.  For more information on DARE see

What are the benefits of making a HEAR Application?

How do Reduced Points Work?

If you apply to HEAR and meet the application criteria (that is, are deemed eligible for HEAR) you may be offered a place even if you do not have enough Leaving Certificate points for your preffered course.  Each participating college and university has a number of reserved places to offer eligible HEAR applicants at lower or reduced Leaving Certificate points.

An exmaple of a reduced points offer is where the Leaving Certificate points for a particular course is 366 points, and an eligible HEAR applicant could be offered a place with a lower points score, e.g. 356 points.  This applicant would also, like all other applicants appyling to college on the basis of their Leaving Certificate results, need to meet the minimum entry requirements and any specific programme requirements before being considered for a HEAR reduced points offer.  The reduction in points for HEAR places varies every year.

The amount of points a particular course is reduced by is dependent on a number of factors, such as:

  • The overall number of places on the course,
  • The number of reserved HEAR places on the course,
  • The number of HEAR eligible applicants competing for these reserved places.

Further details can be found at 

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 university/college - see for the 2023 Orientation dates
  • Extra tuition if required, study skills and exam preparation.
  • One to one meetings with student advisers.
  • Social gatherings/mentoring.
  • Extra financial assistance when available/advice regarding grants and socholarships.

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 2021.
  2. Medical/ GP Visit Card: Your family has a Medical Card / GP Visit Card that was in date on 31 December 2022.
  3. Means Tested Social Welfare: Your family received a means-tested payment from the Department of Social Protection for at least 26 weeks in 2021.
  4. Socio-economic Group: You belong to a group that is underrepresented in higher education based on the occupation and employment status of your parent(s) or guardian(s). The underrepresented 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  €46,790
4-7  €51,325
8 or more  €55,630
Add €4,785 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 2022.
  • a sibling over the age of 16 years on 1 October 2022 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

Essential HEAR Information

How do I apply to HEAR?

Applicants applying to HEAR must:

1. Be under the age of 23 as of 1 January 2023.

2. Apply online to CAO by 17:00 on 1 February 2023.  CAO applications open on 4 November 2022 at 12 noon.

3. No later than 17:00 on 1 March 2023, indicate in 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, a checklist will appear on screen telling you which documents you need to supply.

4. Post your supporting documents to arrive in CAO no later than 17:00 on 15 March 2023.

To complete your online HEAR Application you must:

Get assistance from your parent(s)/guardian(s).
Use the HEAR 2023 Handbook to help you answer all relevant questions on your online HEAR application.
From November 2022
Review the HEAR Handbook with your parent(s)/guardian(s).
Make a CAO application at
Fill in the online HEAR Application at
Gather your supporting documents. 

Remember, they can take several weeks to issue.

By 1 February 2023
Apply to CAO by 17:00 on 1 February.

By 1 March 2023
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 2023

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 2023

In late June 2023

HEAR Application Assessment.

Applicants notified of outcome of HEAR application.

End June/Early July 2023
HEAR Review and Appeals Application.
August 2023
Leaving Certificate exam results.
CAO offers.
Successful HEAR Applicants notified.
Accept CAO offer.
Accept HEAR offer of extra college supports.
Late August/Early September 2023 Attend mandatory HEAR orientation programme.

DARE and HEAR Application Information Days

Application Information Days will take place online for 2023.  Further information on DARE HEAR application days 2023 will be published on 

Click here to view a full list of participating Colleges

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