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Quick, simple answers to your questions about HEAR

Here you will find the answers to questions we get asked the most about HEAR applications

General questions

HEAR is a third level admissions scheme for school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Eligible students compete for a quota of reduced points places in the colleges that run the scheme.

HEAR is for school leavers (under 23 yrs as of 1 January 2022) who are resident in the Republic of Ireland, who have the ability to benefit from and succeed in higher education, and who come from socio-economic groups in Irish society that are underrepresented in third level.

HEAR was set up to tackle educational disadvantage. Socio-economic disadvantage negatively impacts on educational attainment at school and affects progression by some second level students to third level. Research in Ireland shows that, for example, the son/daughter of an unskilled manual worker (e.g. factory worker) is less likely to progress to higher education than the son/daughter of a higher professional (e.g. doctor).

If you apply to HEAR and meet the application criteria (that is, are deemed eligible for HEAR) you may be offered a place even if you do not have enough Leaving Certificate points for your preferred course. Each participating college and university has a number of reserved places to offer eligible HEAR applicants at lower or reduced Leaving Certificate points.

An example of a reduced points offer is that the Leaving Certificate points for a particular course is 366 points. An eligible HEAR applicant could be offered a place with a lower points score, e.g. 356 points. This applicant would also, like all other applicants applying to college on the basis of their Leaving Certificate results, need to meet the minimum entry requirements and any specific programme requirements before being considered for a HEAR reduced points offer. The reduction in points for HEAR places varies every year.

The number of points a particular course is reduced by is dependent on a number of factors, such as;

  • The overall number of places on the course.
  • The number of reserved HEAR places on the course.
  • The number of HEAR eligible applicants competing for these reserved places.
  • ATU Galway-Mayo
  • ATU Letterkenny-Donegal
  • ATU Sligo
  • Dublin City University (DCU)
  • Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology
  • Dundalk IT
  • Marino Institute of Education
  • Mary Immaculate College
  • Maynooth University
  • Munster Technological University, Cork Campus
  • Munster Technological University, Kerry Campus
  • National College of Art and Design
  • National College of Ireland
  • Pontifical University Maynooth
  • RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences
  • SETU Carlow
  • SETU Waterford
  • St Angela’s College Sligo
  • Trinity College (TCD)
  • TU Dublin
  • TUS Athlone Campus
  • TUS Limerick Campus
  • University College Cork (UCC)
  • University College Dublin (UCD)
  • University of Galway (formerly NUIG)
  • University of Limerick (UL)

This means students can apply through HEAR for the quota of places in any of these colleges.

Indicator 1 – Low Income Is the household income below the HEAR Income threshold in 2021?

Indicator 2 – Medical Card Is the applicant or his/her mother/father/guardian in receipt of a medical card (in date on 31st December 2022)

Indicator 3 – Social Welfare Is the applicant’s mother/father/guardian in receipt of a means-tested social welfare payment (for a minimum of 26 weeks in the relevant year) 2021?

Indicator 4 – Socio-Economic Grouping (based on occupation and employment status) Is the applicant a member of a group underrepresented in higher education?

Indicator 5 – DEIS School Did the applicant attend a school part of the Department of Education & Science “DEIS” scheme (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) for the duration of their second level education?

Indicator 6 – Geographical Area Does the applicant live in an area of concentrated disadvantage?

The combinations for eligibility are:

INDICATOR 1 plus 2 plus 4 or 5 or 6

INDICATOR 1 plus 3 plus 4 or 5 or 6

INDICATOR 1 plus 4 plus 5 or 6

INDICATOR 1 plus 5 plus 6

You can apply online on the CAO website from 5th November 2022. As part of the application process, and depending on individual circumstances, you will be asked to submit documentation relating to your parent(s)/guardian(s) or to yourself to support your application. You must be able to clearly document household income in the year specified.

Examples of the documentation required are:

  • Statement(s) of Liability (formerly known as P21(s)) or Self-Assessment Letter – Chapter 4 for 2021.
  • Department of Social Protection form or statement for 2021.
  • Further information on the type of supporting documents required is available on page 19 (the Supporting Document Section) of the HEAR Application Handbook.
  • All supporting documents must be returned to the CAO no later than 15 March 2023 Late documentation will not be accepted.


When completing a HEAR application, you will receive online prompts requesting that you submit specific documentation.

You will receive a supporting document checklist at the bottom of the application form. The supporting document checklist will list what documents you need to submit to the CAO to complete your HEAR application. The checklist is based on the answers you give in Section 7 of the online HEAR application form.

With regards to divorced or separated parents, the income of the parent with whom the applicant lives will be taken into account. If parents are separated but remain residing in the same house as the applicant, both incomes will be taken into account.

In Section 6 of the HEAR application form, select no contact for one parent.

In Section 7, select the parent/guardian who contributes to your family’s income and answer Yes or No as appropriate for that parent under Type of Income (e.g. Employee, paid employment, social welfare).

Answer yes to Section 4: Children in the Care of the State / TUSLA. You do not need to complete Sections 5, 6 or 7.

Supply a letter from TUSLA on TUSLA headed paper detailing the date you were taken into care. Submit this letter to the CAO by 17:00 on 15 March 2023.

You will be notified of the outcome of your HEAR application by the end of June. If you do not receive any correspondence by July 1, contact a member of the HEAR team. You can find their contact details here.

If you are eligible, you can compete for one of the reduced points places on offer in the universities and colleges taking part in the HEAR scheme. All HEAR course offers are made by the CAO.

You must meet the minimum entry and course requirements to be considered for one of the reduced points places.

Details of places available and minimum course entry requirements can be found on each participating college’s page on this site.

Students who secure college places through HEAR are offered a variety of academic, personal and social supports while studying at third level. Such supports include an orientation programme (before courses start), academic guidance and assistance, a bursary when available and advice regarding grants and scholarships.

Ineligible applicants can apply to have their applications reviewed if they believe there has been an error in the screening of the application. Please read the information on the Review and Appeal process.

Eligibility for HEAR carries forward for one year provided that you:

  • apply to CAO by 17:00 on 1 February 2023 and indicate that you wish to apply to the HEAR scheme by 17:00 on 1 March 2023.
  • complete ALL relevant sections of the 2023 HEAR application form.
  • supply your correct 2022 CAO number under Section 8 of the online HEAR application.

The outcome of your 2022 HEAR application was communicated to you in writing in June 2022. If you applied to CAO in 2022 and you were deemed eligible for HEAR in 2022, then your HEAR eligibility can be carried forward to your application for entry in 2023. You must enter your correct 2022 CAO application number in the box provided. You are required to complete ALL relevant sections of the 2023 HEAR application form; however, you DO NOT need to supply supporting documentation as part of your application. Applicants can contact the CAO helpdesk if they require information about their 2023 HEAR eligibility. In the event of being offered and accepting a HEAR place in 2023, you will be required to provide the original documentation, that is copies of which accompanied your 2022 HEAR application.

… my parent(s)/ guardian(s) cannot get a Statement of Liability for 2021?

A PAYE/USC Statement of Liability for the Tax Year 2021(formerly P21) is acceptable.

… my parent(s)/ guardian(s) cannot get a Self-Assessment Letter – Chapter 4 document?

A Notice of Assessment (Chapter 4) will be issued by Revenue to parent(s)/ guardian(s) who file a paper tax return to Revenue and who do not complete a self-assessment on that return. The majority of self-employed Revenue customers receive a Self-Assessment Letter – Chapter 4.

… my parent(s)/ guardian(s) have a ‘Notice of Amended Assessment (Chapter 4)’ or ‘Notice of Amended Assessment (Chapter 5) for 2021’?

If your parent(s)/ guardian(s) have a ‘Notice of Amended Assessment (Chapter 4)’ or ‘Notice of Amended Assessment (Chapter 5) for 2021’ from Revenue, you should send this document to the CAO. Where a Notice of Amended Assessment (Chapter 4) or Notice of Amended Assessment (Chapter 5) for 2021 is received, HEAR will not require a Self-Assessment Letter – Chapter 4 or Notice of Assessment (Chapter 4).

… one parent/ guardian was PAYE and one parent / guardian was self-employed what document do I submit?

A Self-Assessment Letter – Chapter 4 for 2021 if parent(s)/ guardian(s) are jointly assessed by Revenue should be submitted. A Statement of Liability for 2021 and a Self-Assessment Letter – Chapter 4 for 2021 is required if parents/ guardians are separately assessed by Revenue.

… my parent(s)/ guardian(s) earned income from outside the Republic of Ireland in 2021?

HEAR requests that you provide supporting documents for the tax year 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021. Contact a member of the HEAR team for further information.

… my parent/ guardian is self-employed and is also in receipt of a Social Welfare payment? Submit a copy of a Self-Assessment Letter – Chapter 4 for 2021, plus a Department of Social Protection form or statement as outlined in the HEAR Application Handbook.

The HEAR scheme will only consider applicants who wish to be assessed independently of their parents/guardians in exceptional circumstances. If you feel your application should be considered in this way, please email one of the participating colleges (you can get their contact details from the Participating Colleges pages above), outlining your circumstances, for advice on filling in the HEAR online application form. If you are in foster care/care of the state, please go to pages 10 & 25 of the HEAR Application Handbook.

Please contact a staff member in one of the participating colleges, who will be able to advise you, based on your family’s individual circumstances, what you need to provide.

Alternatively, if your parent / guardian is a client of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), a statement of financial affairs from MABS, detailing your family financial situation, will be acceptable as evidence of income.

You must have completed five years in a secondary school that takes part in the DEIS scheme in order to meet this indicator. However, the following applies if you have spent four years in a DEIS school (i.e. have not done Transition Year) and are currently sitting the Leaving Certificate in your new (amalgamated) school. You should select your DEIS school from the dropdown list on your HEAR application form and indicate attendance for 5 years on the HEAR application form. You can then be awarded the DEIS indicator.

In other words, if you are sitting your leaving certificate in a school that has just been amalgamated, you should add this year to the number of years you attended the school that had DEIS status on your HEAR online application form.

If you have any questions on whether or not the above applies to you, you should speak to your guidance counsellor or contact a HEAR advisor.

Yes, Covid-19 PUP (Pandemic Unemployment Payment) received in 2021 is considered part of household income and will be taken into account when assessing income under HEAR.

But it will not be considered as a means-tested Social Welfare payment.

For more information, contact the Access Office in one of the participating colleges

Who is the the HEAR access route for?

Check out this page to find out more are HEAR and to work out if it can help you

How do I apply?

Click here to find out all you need to know about how to make an application