The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) and the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) programmes are both designed to assist young people who encounter barriers to achieving their full academic potential.
Both schemes offer reduced points entry and support at third level for applicants who have experienced educational disadvantage or have experienced a significant educational impact as a result of a disability.
Colleges reserve a number of places for DARE and HEAR applicants. Eligibility for either scheme does not guarantee a place on a preferred course.
The HEAR programme offers places at reduced points as well as academic and financial support to school-leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds, and last year there were 11.345 applicants.
Meanwhile, there were over 4,497 applications for the DARE scheme, which offers places at reduced points to school-leavers, with a disability or illness that has impacted on their achievement
It is important to note that the HEAR scheme is intended to support long term educational disadvantage and not more short term financial issues, which may be better supported by making an application to the centralised grants agency, SUSI.
The DARE scheme is also intended to support students with disability or illness in accessing third level and is separate from all learning or disability support available to students at third level.
In order to apply for both the HEAR and DARE schemes, applicants must indicate their intention on the CAO form by February 1. They then have until March 1 to complete the HEAR and DARE sections of the CAO form online.
However, it is essential that applicants begin the process as early as possible. Applicants can save their work and return to the application at any time between now and March 1.
A number of supporting documents are required from HEAR and DARE applicants, and these documents must be received by CAO by April 1 at 5.15pm or application will not be considered. As these documents can often take eight to 10 weeks to gather applicants should begin this process as early as possible.
For a full list of supporting document requirements and more information about how to complete the application process students should visit
Advice clinics for both the HEAR and DARE will take place all over the country in January. There will be general information available as well as opportunity to ask about individual applications.
It may be helpful for applicants to bring their supporting documentation with them especially if there is an area about which they are uncertain.
There are also helpful short film guides to applying for both the HEAR and DARE program available on.