5th November. The firing pistol for those thousands of students looking to submit a CAO application. With the number of students seeking to enter third-level education in some form or another expected to rise again, the competition for points and places leaves many students fraught with anxiety.
With the opening of applications today, there has been a sharp rise in the number of students Googling 'jam-making'. After a quick search on Urban Dictionary to make sure that there was no seedy, ulterior meaning to this search - thankfully, there wasn't - it has become evident that many students, perhaps struggling to cope with the pressures of 6th year, are looking to the most basic options available to them when they finish school.
Professor Mildred Clench, a lecturer in the prestigious jam-making department of Slieve Hegarty IT described it as "Wonderful that so many young people are taking an interest in jam-making. It has long been said that most of our public services are if anything over-staffed, and that, for example, there are an over-abundance of medical professionals in this country - honestly, you can barely move for them. Whereas, these days, there are simply not enough people committing their lives to making artisanal fruit preserves."
Speaking to a current 6th year student, Bláithnaid Gargle, about why she was considering putting jam-making as the first choice on her CAO she said, "I was hoping to study mathematics, but already, in this hellscape of a year, what with the stress of actually doing the Leaving Cert, my self-confidence has already been eroded to such an extent that I only feel emotionally competent, or indeed worthy enough, to wile away the rest of my days, transforming fruits into sweetened spreads."
Professor Clench said that she would be happy for Bláithnaid, and other students like her, to get in touch with any questions they may have about what makes jam-making such an exciting course. "It's both an education and a life skill and it's an area that's getting increasing amounts of funding. For instance, just last week, our department was granted an old oil-drum that was dredged from the bottom of a canal. Once we clean out most of the rust and ensure that the last of the human remains have been removed, we can use it to store jams. But the most important thing is that any student sitting down to look at their options chooses what's best for them. Unless it's marmalade-making. If they choose to go and make marmalades over jams, I personally pledge to track each of them down and cause them physical pain."
The closing date for standard CAO registration is February 1.