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The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is an admissions scheme for students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. The scheme aims to improve access to college for school-leavers from socio-economic backgrounds that are under-represented in third-level education. Under the HEAR scheme a number of third-level places are allocated to school-leavers on a reduced points basis. To be eligible for the scheme you must meet certain indicators or criteria related to your financial, social and cultural circumstances – see ‘Indicators’ below.

Each of the third-level colleges participating in the scheme has reserved a number of places on its courses for school-leavers who are eligible for HEAR. You can find details of the places available through HEAR on the websites of the participating third-level colleges.

If you wish to apply for a college place under the HEAR scheme you should apply online through the CAO. Your CAO application must reach the CAO by 5.15 pm 1 February 2023. Late CAO applications are not considered for HEAR.

When you are filling in the online CAO form you must complete the part of the form to say you wish to apply for the HEAR scheme. You will then be directed to a separate HEAR application form. You must complete this part of your application by 1 March 2023.

Then on the HEAR application form you must answer questions on your family’s income, your parents’ employment status and the schools you attended.

By 15 March 2023 your supporting documents must reach the CAO, providing evidence of your circumstances. No applications will be accepted after the closing dates. The closing dates are very strict because HEAR is an additional application procedure which needs extra processing time.

You will get a letter in late June 2023 (after the Leaving Certificate examination) telling you whether you are eligible for the scheme. If you are told you are not eligible you can ask for your application to be reviewed. Your HEAR application does not affect your CAO application, which will be processed in the usual way after you get your Leaving Certificate results.

The CAO helpline at (091) 509 800 can assist school-leavers with their HEAR application. You can find further information in this list of frequently asked questions on the Access College website. You can also contact the access services of the colleges participating in the HEAR scheme.