Before you hit the beach!
Jill Barrett advises on what you need to consider during this Change of Mind season
The start of the Leaving Certificate is usually recognised by the rest of us 'oldies', that have seen many of them, as the official beginning of summer. As soon as the first paper is distributed, the sun seems guaranteed to stay shining and temperatures rise, at least for the duration of your time in the exam hall. Being locked away for so long during June and in the months and weeks before it, it's tempting to run as far away as possible from anything to do with academia, as soon as that last paper is out of the way. But as an ex-colleague of mine used to say: "Stall the digger!"; there is one more job to do!
The Change of Mind process allows you an opportunity, once your exams are out of the way and you're in a more relaxed frame of mind, to think more clearly about, and review, the courses you have chosen. This is all with a view to ensuring that your final lists include only the options that are the best fit for you, thus giving you a greater chance that you will be happy with whatever course you're offered - win, win.
So, what can you do to best help yourself with decisions around Change of Mind? If you haven't done so already, complete a career interest profiler such as the one on careersportal.ie - the most 'scientific' way of finding career paths that are a good match for you, preferably with help from a career guidance professional. Explore further the ideas you've gained about different course and career options, both by accessing online resources, and also by speaking to college staff and people working in the careers that interest you. Remember that there are multiple routes to lots of careers, including doing Post-Leaving Certificate courses.
Remember also that while every higher level of education you achieve increases your likelihood of employment, college does not suit everyone as the path to a satisfying career. And, you usually have the option to defer a place and/or to try college out for a period and to withdraw if it doesn't suit you (if you do so before October 31st there are usually very minimal financial implications). Most importantly, fill out both Level 8 and Level 7/6 lists fully, putting the courses you want the most at the top. If you're feeling very under pressure, why not take a year out? (Turn to page 8 for more on alternative options)
Daniel Kahnemann's book "Thinking Fast & Slow" examines the efficacy of our decision making i.e. whether well thought-out and informed decisions lead to more successful outcomes than those that result from decisions made on the basis of gut instinct. His text examines our thinking processes and provides research-based evidence on where we can and cannot trust our intuitions, and how we can reap the benefits of thinking more slowly. So, it's good to know that generally, if our decision has been made on the basis of research-based evidence, it is more likely that we will be content with the outcome. Above all it's good to be able to assure ourselves that we did everything we could to make sure our course choices are a good call.
Remember, however, that this is your call, not anyone else's. If your gut is screaming at you that it's not a good time to be making the decision and you would benefit from some time out, or if you are choosing courses based on what everyone else thinks, take time to stand back. When extremely stressed, or feeling negative, the likelihood of us making the best decision is reduced. Many of my conversations with clients coming to me for help with career change in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond have a common theme: "I knew that the course I picked/got a place on was not the right one for me".
So, take a day or two after your exams to chill out, get yourself into a nice relaxed state of mind and check out the choices you've made. Make informed changes if you need to and then, get out there and enjoy life where you can.