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Going to college: Making the most of your final school year


Contact Aoife at aoifewalsh@independent.ie Twitter: @edguidance. Photo: Tony Gavin

Contact Aoife at aoifewalsh@independent.ie Twitter: @edguidance. Photo: Tony Gavin

Contact Aoife at aoifewalsh@independent.ie Twitter: @edguidance. Photo: Tony Gavin

Each year when I meet my sixth year students, there are a number of things I want them to know as soon as possible to help reduce stress and achieve the best results they can.

There is never enough time to discuss these in school and there is certainly not enough space in this column. However, here are some pointers that might help students get the best out of the year ahead...

Get organised

Before the business of Sixth Year kicks off - and it begins almost immediately - students should take some time to organise their work from last year. It doesn't matter if you were the best Fifth Year student or coasted doing very little work, that year has passed and you cannot change how you performed. So forget about it and move on.

Students will need notes and handouts from last year at some point and it may be difficult to find what you need in the middle of a homework and study session on a late rainy October evening. If the Fifth Year notes are at the bottom of the bag or in a pile on the floor, now is a great time to buy some folders and get them organised.


The Irish education system in general is beginning to place more importance on the benefits of reflection in learning and the beginning of Leaving Cert year is a key time for this. Students should take time to reflect on their learning from last year as well as on their performance, because Leaving Cert can be more about hard work than talent. Helpful questions may include 'which subjects did I do well in last year and why?', 'which subjects did I perform poorly in and why?', 'is there anything I can work on to change this?' and 'is there any work I neglected and can I prioritise this now?'.

It can be helpful for the student to answer these questions with someone they trust, and/or to write down their answers and use them as a reference point to help put them into practice. Be honest - this is just for you.

With regards to work and organisation, students may wish to consider if they have met their goals in the past and, if they did, what helped and, if they did not, why not? And what can they do to change this?

Break it down

It feels like there is so much work ahead and sometimes students don't know where to begin and end up stressed and doing very little work.

Every student should start immediately doing small amounts of work every day - it is the best way to get everything done. Remember, homework and studying for class tests are the foundations for good study.

Best of luck to the Leaving Cert class of 2018 on your journey. I look forward to walking it with you.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin.

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