Sixth years: This is when NOT to take your Leaving Cert holiday
Second-level students are settling into their first full week of classes for the new academic year. No doubt, teachers across the country are trying to impart to their sixth years how important this year is, as well as the value of beginning work early.
A good start is indeed the key to being happy with next year's college offer, but thinking ahead to the results and offers will also help students reduce their stress levels next August.
In many schools, sixth year students are currently, or soon will be, very concerned with booking what they regard as their all-important Leaving Cert holiday.
Adults may regard this as a frivolous activity for students entering this all-important and challenging year, and perhaps even a pointless topic for this column.
But these holidays are more popular than ever. They are a milestone in a young person's life - for many, it's their first holiday with their friends, and a lot of excited planning goes into them
Importantly, the timing of such holidays has the potential either to ensure that they are a great end-of-school celebration, or a source of stress.
Being out of the country immediately after the Leaving Cert results are released is a very bad idea and may result not only in stress, but could even mean missing out on a course altogether.
Next year, the Leaving Cert results are likely to be released on Wednesday August 12, followed by CAO round one offers the following Monday, August 17. It is true that students can check their Leaving Cert results online, as well as accept a CAO offer online from anywhere in the world, and for students who are pleased with their offer, this process is likely to be smooth.
However, each year, many students are disappointed or unsure of their options. For these students, being far away from home can turn small difficulties into major problems. Even high-achieving students may have to deal with an unexpected turn of events.
Disappointed students have many options in August, but nearly all require them to be in the country. A student, whose maths grade comes up short for a particular course, or courses, has an opportunity to take second chance maths exams in a number of third-level colleges to fulfil a maths requirement. These exams tend to take place in the week or so after the Leaving Cert results are released and can lead to a round two offer.
Some students may choose to make a late application for a post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course, perhaps because they did not get a desired college offer and may hope to use the PLC qualification as an alternative route to third-level . Some are simply not ready to commit to a full degree programme. Applicants to PLC courses are required to do an interview.
Students who accept an offer may need to find accommodation in a city in which they had not really expected to be studying, and securing the right place can take time and effort. There are always students who want to query a Leaving Cert grade and, as a precursor to seeking a recheck, it is wise to view the relevant exam scripts in the company of a teacher or someone else who is familiar with the exam marking scheme.
The viewing of scripts takes place in the last weekend of August every year and students must be present for this. While a students may be accompanied by another person, no one else can view them on their behalf.
Even students, who are happy with their college offer, can doubt their choice when it actually arrives. Speaking to their family, friends or guidance counsellor can put minds at ease very quickly.
All of these things are much more difficult, if not impossible, when students are abroad and away from their normal support system.
While it may seem a long way off, planning ahead for the worse-case scenario may save students and parents a huge amount of stress and upset come next August.
Like everything else to do with the Leaving Cert, some careful planning goes a long way to getting the most out of it.
So, enjoy the Leaving Cert holiday and all the fun and excitement that goes into organising it - but remember to consider July if booking a trip away.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin