Am I eligible for reduced CAO points for my first choice college course?

Hear and Dare access schemes offer eligible applicants the possibility of lower points requirements

My son’s guidance counsellor says he might be eligible for reduced CAO points under both the Hear and Dare schemes. He has a first choice course is mind, but is also considering an electrical apprenticeship or post-Leaving Certificate course. Could he apply for these schemes if he ends up applying to college in a few years time?

Thousands of students have successfully secured college places with the assistance of Hear (Higher Education Access Route) and Dare (Disability Access Route to Education) schemes. Hear is for students whose social class means they are underrepresented in higher education, while Dare is aimed at students with learning difficulties or disabilities.

All applicants to the CAO under 23 years old are entitled to apply for consideration by participating colleges under both schemes.

If successful, the applicant can use the acceptance for two years, (ie the year that they are deemed eligible and the following year if they do not secure an appropriate offer in year one or simply choose not to proceed and apply again in the following year).


There are many advantages to being deemed eligible under either or both schemes. The main one is the possibility of securing a sought-after course on lower CAO points than those required by standard applicants. Successful applicants may also receive a range of supports from within their college while undertaking their course.

There are a series of steps which you and your son will need to take in the coming weeks if he is to meet the various deadlines outlined in his online CAO handbook (

Hear and Dare applicants must register with the CAO by February 1st, 2023 at 5pm and complete the appropriate sections of the online CAO application form no later than March 1st. Supporting documents for either scheme must be sent to CAO before March 15th at 5pm.

All 20 participating third level colleges have staff members who can advise applicants on how to apply to either scheme.

Each participating college or university has a Hear adviser in the access office or a disability officer who can advise on Dare eligibility requirements. Check online ( for contact details for individual institutions.

For information on general entry requirements – exemptions, restrictions and course-related requirements – potential applicants are encouraged to contact admissions officers

In the interest of confidentiality, Hear and Dare advisers will only discuss details of an application with the applying student or their parents/guardians.

* Online event: On Saturday January 14th, 2023, there will be an annual online information session for potential applicants ( The Dare session takes place at 10am followed by the Hear session at 12.30pm. They include a questions and answers session on how to make a successful application.