Students all across the country received their Leaving Cert results today. In a day full of worry, excitement, and frustration, the dreaded CAO choices have once again reared their ugly heads. You might be sitting down with your exam script and trying to figure out the points you have and whether or not what you have on paper will match the points you'll need for the CAO (A heads up, this points calculator will help you out).
We spoke UniBrowse.ie founder Alan O'Beirne, the website which helps to compare your CAO choices, and he had some much-needed words of advice for students up and down the country. Alan strongly believes the point system in Ireland is the wrong approach and causes unneccessary stress for students:
Unfortunately students feel alot of pressure to get into this 'dream courses'. You have this notion that 'this is the perfect course for me' and then if you don't get that, its game over - its not. Far from it. This is just the beginning. There is no perfect course, there's no perfect student; but its what you make out of what you have.I did the Leaving Cert 7 years ago; I didn't get the points I wanted. I've first hand experience at the devastation of not getting my choices and believe me, its not the end of the world either way. I've friends who got their 'dream course' and didn't like it, and I've friends who went way down the list and ended up loving their course.You have to be able to adjust, not just in the Leaving Cert but in life. Be brave and honest enough to accept that things don't always go as you imagined, and then be agile enough to make adjustments. Mike Tyson once said "everyone has a plan till they're punched in the face", and as irrelevant as boxing is to the Leaving Cert, he's right.
Here are five options you can pursue if you haven't achieved the 'perfect' Leaving Cert result:
1) Stop Putting Pressure On Yourself
The last few months of the Leaving Cert have been a stressful ordeal, you need to rest and let yourself think away from the classroom. Relax and take some deep breaths. You might feel pressure from every corner of your life but the reality is you're allowing yourself to feel that pressure. Stop doing this before you proceed with any choice you're thinking of making. If you're terrified of your results and feel you did better than what's on paper, apply for a re-check of your results.
It's all about how you frame the result to yourself. I missed out on my 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices. However, I found myself really enjoying other courses that I wouldn't of ever considered myself passionate about and 7 years later, I am delighted I ended up with my 4th choice. When I look back on it now, all the pressure I felt on getting XYZ points was all caused by my own head. My parents just wanted what was best for me, and once I was happy then they were happy. All this build up of pressure was down to me putting it on myself, nobody else was putting it on me.
2) Get Cracking On Your Career
I've worked in Recruitment for 3 years; employers look for attitude and personal attributes rather than the title of your undergraduate Degree.
3) Take A Year Out And Go Travelling
College isn't the bee all and end all. The world is full of wonders and they're all waiting for you to explore. Volunteer abroad or travel and work in Europe for free food and board. Join farming organisations such as Wwoofing.com which allows you to travel the world by working on farms. It's a nice break from the books and it's an education in how to live life. You can return to college as a mature student in later years.
4) Do A PLC Course
Students can do Level 5 Fetac courses and there are foundation link courses with bigger colleges so students can access their degree programmes, which Alan believes is a fantastic route for students. There are courses that will become available once the CAO offers and gives you the option of looking at what other students haven't taken.
There's a million ways to skin a cat; there's so many different routes to getting to the same goal that I really wouldn't obsess and worry about the specifics. There's so much variety in Irish education these days that the opportunities are endless, Level 6/7 courses feed into Level 8s also so there is a lot of room for progression.
5) Should I Repeat?
Alan recommends repeating the Leaving Cert as a last resort as doing it once is stressful enough. You are not guaranteed the points, with some students achieving the exact same points all over again, and your interests may change once the resit year finishes.
I know you might be struggling with your results but use this time as an opportunity for reflection. You're not going to be rushing into a course that you may not fully want or are ready to commit to. For now, it's time to celebrate your success and achievements.