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Taking the ACCESS road to college

Are you eligible to go through the Access route to third level?

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in education

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The Access route to college is an admissions scheme to help students who may not traditionally go on to third level education.

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) and participating colleges reserve a number of places each year for students that come from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds and show an ability, motivation and potential to succeed at third level. You can find a list of participating colleges here.

It works on a reduced points basis so there are a number of places held on courses for people who have lower leaving cert points who have gone through the Access route.

Who can apply?

If you are under 23 and completed the Leaving Cert, you can apply.

Am I eligible?

There are a number of different factors taken into consideration, for example:

To be eligible for the HEAR Scheme you must meet the Low Income indicator (no. 1 below) plus a combination of two other indicators. To find out more about these combinations, check out the HEAR website here.


  1. Income: Your family income falls on or below the HEAR Income Limit.
  2. Medical Card: Your family has a Medical Card or GP Visit Card.
  3. Social Welfare Payment: Your family received a means-tested payment from the Department of Social Protection (formally Department of Social Welfare) for at least 26 weeks in 2011.
  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). At the moment the group includes non-manual workers; semi & unskilled manual workers and agricultural workers.
  5. School: You completed five years in a secondary school that takes part in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) scheme.
  6. Area: You live in an area in which there is concentrated disadvantage and social exclusion - in other words, an area where, for example, there is high unemployment and poverty and very few facilities for the community.

Benefits of Access:

  • Orientation day
  • Extra tuition if required
  • Mentoring/social gatherings
  • Extra financial assistance when available

How to apply:

You can apply to go down the HEAR route by filling out your CAO form and indicating on the form that you would like to apply for the HEAR scheme. This form will be part of your CAO application. For more info on this check out

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Published July 17th, 2013
Last updated March 21st, 2018
Tags access college student finance
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