1 March – HEAR – CAO

HEAR is a programme to assist applicants from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds in accessing third-level education. It allows reduced points entry to courses, as well as a variety of academic, personal and social supports while studying.

For example, some colleges provide academic support in certain subjects while others prioritise HEAR students for on-campus accommodation. Orientation programmes, academic guidance and bursaries and scholarships are also commonplace.


The scheme uses a number of indicators to assess eligibility. The first indicator is income and must be met by all candidates. The income limit varies and is calculated by how many children there are in the family and how many people in the family are in full-time education.

As a guide, family income must be less than €45,790 for applicants from families with fewer than four dependent children. Other indicators include medical cards, means-tested social welfare payments, attending a DEIS school, the socio-economic group the candidate belongs to and the area in which they live.

A number of different combinations of these criteria will be considered and candidates do not have to meet all five indicators, although they must meet the income limit criterion. Any young person who is in the care of the State will qualify for this scheme, irrespective of the circumstance of their foster family or carer.

A CAO applicant who has indicated an interest in HEAR on their CAO form will gain access to a Supplementary Information Form, which must be completed by 5.15pm tomorrow. As the form is related to income and social welfare payments, it is helpful for applicants to complete it with the assistance of a parent. The website will then generate a personalised list of supporting documentation, which must be received by the CAO no later than April 1.

Many young people find the idea of applying for the HEAR programme quite daunting. The website, accesscollege.ie, has a wide range of very helpful resources and supports available for anyone considering making an application. Rules around deadlines and evidence are extremely strict, so it is essential to begin working on this if candidates have not already done so.

Candidates will be advised in June as to whether or not they were successful in their application, but there is no disadvantage to applying, and unsuccessful applicants will be entered into the normal CAO application process.

Similarly, once a candidate arrives to college their HEAR status will not be general knowledge.

It is worth noting that this scheme is not intended to support young people or families who are enduring temporary or, solely, financial hardship.

Such families should consider applying for the SUSI grant. The grant is open to applications in April and normally closes in July.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin

Author: Francis O' Toole

Francis O' Toole is a Educational Psychotherapist & Guidance Counsellor. I set up this blog page to help students gain as much information as possible to be able to make right choices and decisions regarding their career options. I believe that we will be very successful in our careers if we follow what we enjoy.

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