"Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost
We have all been there. The stress of the Leaving Certificate, waiting anxiously for the results and then waiting again for that all-important CAO letter. This stressful summer is then followed by the start of a whole new voyage into college only a few months after finishing school. New friends, new studies, new home; it is everything all at once.
There are also students who might not have earned enough points to be accepted onto their dream course. This can understandably cause anxiety and a feeling of dejection to the point where they might not feel like going to college at all.
But, the traditional route of going straight into college is not the journey for everyone, and it certainly wasn't the journey for me. It is being replaced by other possibilities, from taking a year out to completing a post-Leaving Certificate course. These other options can help make your life the one you want to live.
Deferring* a year before going to college has many benefits, and I would know, since this is the choice I made. Having attended school for 14 years non-stop, it was difficult for me to immediately jump into more formal education, so soon after saying goodbye to my school uniform. At 18, I didn't feel ready for university. I decided to defer my place in the BA in History in UCD for one year, while I got the hang of adult life.
During my year, I started a job and saved money for my upcoming college term. This year gave me the opportunity to work in the real world and it made me realise just how important it is to have a college education! I had time to learn new things without the stress of exams looming over me. I started writing seriously during that year, which is how I realised that writing was what I wanted to do with my life. That one year did so much for me and I am forever grateful that I chose to make that decision. So, it could be the right choice for you too.
*Even if the points increase for your course in the next year, your spot is still saved for you. However, always check if your college of choice accepts deferrals.
2 POST-LEAVING CERTIFICATE COURSE
Sometimes you might not get the points you need. Or, sometimes you need time to build up a portfolio in order to be accepted on a course. There are plenty of options available for those who require an extra boost on their applications.
There are many institutions around Ireland which offer Level 5 and Level 6 courses which can be used as stepping stones for a degree course.
Louise Curtin, from Dublin, wants to be a graphic designer. In order to get the amount of points required and the time to create the perfect portfolio of work, she attended Marino College of Further Education after her Leaving Certificate and did a Level 5 course in graphic design.
"I needed to create a portfolio showing my art and design skills and I felt like this was too much work to do while I was also doing the Leaving Cert," says Louise. "I decided to take a year to really get it right while also furthering my education.
"On my course I had the opportunity to go on work placement which has really opened my eyes to what happens in a real workplace environment. I have completed my portfolio and work experience and I am now in a much better position to enter my degree course this September."
3 MATURE STUDENTS
Occasionally, college is not the right choice right now. Maybe you need more time than just a year to figure out what you want to do; maybe you dropped out of another course; or perhaps you were waylaid by work or family commitments and now think it's too late. But, there is always an option to go to college no matter how 'old' you think you are.
There are many advantages to being a mature student:
■ Most universities specifically set aside several college places for mature students, which means there is usually less competition.
■ You may be in a much better financial situation than you were when you were 18, so mum and dad don't need to be called every weekend for money!
■ The wealth of experience a mature student has is used in conjunction with CAO points to see if they are suited to the course. This means there is more opportunity for those who didn't get the points they wanted.
There is always another road. And sometimes the one less travelled can make all the difference.
Going to College
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!
Going to College
Choosing the right course can be daunting. For years you have sat in classes in school hoping to get through your exams and suddenly you have to decide on your whole future! Perhaps you have always loved music and want to study it more. Or, maybe you're great at maths and think you could be an accountant. There are so many choices that it can get overwhelming.
Going to College
The key to the success of any college experience is developing 'soft skills'. These skills are acquired in college and are absolutely necessary in the workplace. Everything you learn in college, no matter how small, can lead to a more successful life and career.
Going to College
"Let there be no panic in the house" an old boss of mine used to say, Fawlty Tower-esque chaos raging around us. It may seem a challenge to keep your head when, as the saying goes, "all about you are losing theirs", but during this testing time in your teenager's life this is the goal you must aim for.
Going to College
"Maths was always one of my favourite subjects in secondary school," says Niamh Burke, from Cork. "This is why I decided to select maths-related courses on my CAO. When the CAO offers were distributed, I got my first choice which was Civil Engineering in University College Cork (UCC). I loved the course for the first few weeks, but I soon started to realise that I would like to do something which would allow me to work with and help people."