'If it wasn't for the PLC, I would never have got a place on a nursing degree course'
Amy Martin, Moate Business College/Athlone IT
Amy Martin always wanted to be a nurse but she wasn't confident of achieving the CAO points necessary to gain entry to this highly competitive field of study.
The 19-year-old from Westmeath says she didn't like school: "It wasn't really my thing; I felt I wasn't doing anything I really enjoyed."
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The former pupil of Moate Community School skipped Transition Year and sat her Leaving Cert at 17. Despite her young age, by then she had a clear plan of how she was going to realise her dream.
It worked perfectly and last September, one year after leaving school, Amy started her nursing degree programme.
During fifth year, Amy's guidance counsellor introduced her to the idea of post-Leaving Cert (PLC) courses, which may be for one or two years and a wide variety of which are on offer in the neighbouring Moate Business College. It is a large college of further education, with courses in business and IT, caring, and art and leisure.
Amy applied to the CAO, but she also applied for a place on the PLC in Nursing Studies in Moate Business College.
"I wanted to go there. I applied to the CAO, but I knew I was going to go to the business college," she says.
Successful completion of the PLC allows students to compete for places in a large number of nursing degree programmes, both in Ireland and the UK, based on PLC results and not CAO points.
As well as doing modules in subjects such as anatomy and physiology, as in all PLCs, students also cover areas such as communications.
It was the right decision for Amy: "I was the type where it was an effort for me to go to school, but with the business college, if there was a day I couldn't go, I was really upset. If you like what you are doing, it makes it easier to put the work in."
While PLC students need a minimum of five distinctions to be considered for progression to higher education, Amy swept the boards with eight and clinched a reserved place on the general nursing degree programme in Athlone IT.
"If it wasn't for the PLC, I never would have got that place. I had a fantastic year and I would recommend it to anyone.
"It gave me the basics and it was a great introduction to college. I am very lucky to be where I am, studying what I want to study."