What To Do If Your Exam Results Aren't What You Were Expecting

There's no doubt about it, Results Day is one of the scariest, most nerve-wracking days of your entire life. You've spent the past six years (or six months, whatever) working your socks off just to see which cruel little letters will appear when you open that brown envelope and set sight on the certificate. Good God, I felt a few tickles in my stomach even thinking about that day last year.

The education system in this country is set in such a way that only the students who pop out A's and B's in every exam get to do the courses they love. What if you're a kid who has been fascinated by the human mind and all of its intricacies since you were three-foot-nothing and all you want in life is to be a therapist, but you suck at trigonometry and the Tuiseal Ginideach?

Even if you do get good grades in class tests and are set to achieve above average Leaving Cert points, sometimes that's not enough. You might be a borderline A2 student in your teacher's eyes, but if you're an examiner and you've already dished out five A2's in this pile of scripts then you my friend, are set to fall on the wrong side of the curve. I mean, we've all heard of the curve, right? How examiners can only award a certain amount of A1s, A2s, B1s, etc.? Yeah, it's a whole pile of unfairness really.

Which is what leads me onto the fact that not every student in Ireland with psychology down as their first choice is going to get a place in that course. It's just not going to happen. Even if every single one of those students would make an excellent psychologist and have the passion and mindset for it, sad as that may be. And when those students who fall short of the 545 (or something equally ridiculous) points requirement don't get that first choice offer, they often settle for a different course just because they want to put their points to good use. But what if CAO points weren't the be all and end all?

Spoiler alert: they're not.

Don't get me wrong, your Leaving Cert points do matter. Even if it's purely for bragging rights (and sometimes it really is). But just because you were five points short of your first choice, doesn't mean you have to settle for a course you're not passionate about. Oftentimes, students are so riddled by disappointment and caught up in the points scheme that they forget about all of the other options available to them.


So, if you open the brown envelope, tot up your results and realise you didn't get the points you needed, take a deep breath, cry a little and then be thankful that there are plenty of options still available to you. These mysterious "other options" that I speak so promisingly of, are the institutions that offer fantastic level 6, 7 and 8 degree courses but aren't so concerned about whether you quoted Othello correctly or studied a foreign language.

These schools offer equally in-depth course studies and you'll come out the other end with the same qualifications you would've, had you gotten your first choice course on your CAO application. The best news for those of you who might've been drowning yourselves in sorrow tonight is that it's not too late to apply for the majority of these courses. Online applications for Autumn 2015 (which is this September, btw) are still available on most college websites, and there's no time like the present to get applying.

So forget crying yourself into oblivion and the general doom and gloom of The Brown Envelope *dun dun DUN* and start thinking about the new door that you're opening by applying for these colleges. Sometimes you have to choose between what you know is the best option for your future and what you feel more comfortable and safe doing. But as Robert Frost put it (sorry, I'm an English poetry junkie), "I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference."

For more information on your third level options, visit the DBS website.

Olivia Dawson
Article written by
Olivia is a Journalism and New Media student at the University of Limerick. As well as writing for College Times, she is also a contributor with and After college Olivia hopes to write feature articles and/or opinion pieces for a New York magazine, from a penthouse suite in Manhattan, earning a six-figure annual salary. She's also known for being slightly over-ambitious.

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