Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Brian Howard from Department of Education and Skills to give some advice for people considering this job:


Brian Howard

Guidance Counsellor

Department of Education and Skills

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  Brian Howard

This career involves working with people in a caring capacity. If you have no interest in helping people personally or educationally then this may be the wrong profession for you.

Empathy, patience and respect are important qualities for this job, in addition to be able to relate well to the person you are dealing with. As there is also a large amount of information to be handled in the job, good organisational, IT and time management skills are also quite important.


The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with clever technology. They will often follow the latest developments in their chosen field, and prefer mentally stimulating environments.
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HEAR and DARE College Access Schemes

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HEAR and DARE College Access Schemes

Thursday, December 10, 2015 

HEAR and DARE College Access Schemes

Writing in the Irish Independent newspaper, Guidance Counsellor Aoife Walsh takes a look at the HEAR and DARE schemes which support specific categories of students in accessing college. Here's her advice for Leaving Certificate students (and their parents) who are working on their CAO application forms for college places in 2016:

Advantages of applying for the HEAR scheme

The final part of the CAO form to be filled out by some students is the section for the HEAR scheme.

HEAR is a reduced points entry scheme for students who are affected by educational disadvantage, while it also offers additional financial academic and social supports whilst attending third level.

Eligibility for HEAR

In order to be eligible for HEAR there are a number of criteria that must be met, the first of which relates to income. Total family income must be less than €45,790 for families with four children or fewer. There are higher income thresholds for families with more than four children. If intending applicants do not meet the income criterion they will not qualify for HEAR. If an applicant does meet this criterion, they will also need to meet a number of other criteria before they will qualify for the programme.

Other criteria include:

  • a medical card or a GP visit card
  • means tested social welfare payments
  • membership of a socio economic group which is under represented at third level including, non-manual workers, semi-skilled manual workers, unskilled manual workers and agricultural workers
  • attending a DEIS school, and
  • living in an area of concentrated disadvantage or social exclusion

Any young person who is in the care of the state will automatically qualify for HEAR, however, they will still need to complete the application. In addition, young people who qualify for both HEAR and the DARE scheme will be given priority in recognition of this dual challenge.

It is worth noting that HEAR is intended to support students who are affected by severe educational disadvantage and not for students who may be affected by low income alone. This second group will be better assisted by the SUSI maintenance grant.

What colleges?

While the majority of third level institutions participate in the HEAR scheme not every college does. Applicants can find the list of participating colleges on

If the institution you wish to attend is not participating in HEAR they almost certainly have a similar scheme and the applicant should contact the admissions office to enquire about the process in that particular institution.

If a CAO applicant thinks that they may qualify for HEAR they should begin their CAO application as soon as possible if they have not already done so. When applicants come to the account home page they will see that the very last section is for those who wish to make a HEAR application. Applicants should click on the blue button and begin answering the questions which appear online. They will be required to indicate their intention to apply for the HEAR scheme by February 1. After this, applicants will be required to provide information on family status, medical cards and social welfare payments income etc. So, it is very helpful if the applicant completes this section with a parent.

Once applicants complete the online section (this must be done by March 1) the CAO will generate a list of documents which they will need to provide. The content of this list is based on the answers given and may be different for each applicant. These documents must be gathered and posted to the CAO in Galway by April 1.

HEAR Application Advice Video 2016

For more information, see or attend one of the HEAR application clinics which will take place nationwide on January 16, 2016.

HEAR & DARE application and advice clinics take place nationwide on Saturday January 16, 2016

The DARE programme

The section of the CAO form where applicants are asked to declare a disability or specific learning difficulty allows institutions to contact them to obtain further information about their needs and provides the opportunity to advise on the college supports available to them.

An applicant who declares a disability will also have the opportunity to apply for the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) programme. Successful DARE applicants can compete for reduced points entry to CAO courses. It is important to understand that DARE is for reduced points entry only and is not related to supports. Applicants who may not qualify for DARE can still access support at third level. DARE eligibility is based on both evidence of a disability and educational impact of this disability.

DARE will consider applications from people who have a significant ongoing illness (including diabetes), mental health issues, learning difficulties, sensory issues, mobility issues, autism, dyspraxia etc.

It is not essential for applicants with a disability to apply through DARE, but if an applicant wishes to be considered there are a number of steps they must take.

Applicants must indicate their interest by February 1. Once an applicant has done this, a form requesting more information will appear. Applicants must complete this online section (Section A) by March 1. It contains two forms, which must be printed out, and filled out by the relevant professional. One is an Educational Impact statement (Section B) which must be completed by a learning support teacher, guidance counsellor, visiting teacher or year head, and the other is evidence of disability, to be completed by the relevant health care professional. These forms and others requiring evidence of disability (such as psychological assessments, GP or consult letters etc.) should be forwarded to the CAO no later than April 1.

DARE Application Advice video 2016

Both school and health care professionals can have a large number of these forms to complete at this time of year, so applicants must ensure they get the forms to the relevant people as early as possible.

Further information on evidence of disabilities, age limits of reports and application procedures in general can be found at

What colleges?

Some colleges do not participate in DARE, but may operate their own version of this programme. If a student intends to apply apply to a college that does not participate in DARE it is important to contact the admissions office or disability support office to get more information on any access scheme.

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


The CareersPortal Team