Have a happy Christmas, but don't forget to spend some time studying!
Leaving Certificate students all over the country may be breathing a sigh of relief this week as the Christmas holidays approach. Term one of Leaving Cert year is certainly a long one and everyone may be feeling tired and weary. Students may be feeling contented with this term's work or perhaps they are wondering where the time went and are a little more behind with their study then they intended to be. Either way, the Christmas holidays are a great time to make progress in study and career choices.
There are opportunities for every student to improve their study over Christmas. It can be difficult for all students to face into a six or eight-hour day at school and remain motivated to complete another three hours of school work at home. During the Christmas holidays students will have the opportunity to rest as well as study.
Starting early each day students can complete a great deal of work before taking the afternoon to enjoy themselves. This can be a great time to work on areas that have been difficult to fit into the weekly study routine such as practicing essay-writing and completing practice exam papers. Always decide what will be covered during a study session before sitting down to work, and judge success on the work completed rather than the time spent at the desk.
Students have spent the last number of months researching courses and attending open days. The majority of institutions have held at least one open day at this stage so students should be nearly finished their research for their main choices. The CAO closing date of February 1 will be upon us very quickly once the Christmas holidays end, while students applying to UCAS in the UK, must have their application completed no later than January 15. Therefore it is imperative that students use the Christmas holidays to finish up their research and to ensure that they understand the content and requirements of all courses for which they are planning to apply.
Make a decision
Once research has been completed it's time to start working on order of preference. While this is not required for UCAS applications it is an essential part of the CAO process. Applicants must decide which course they would prefer above all others and place this course in the top position on their CAO form. Then they should ask themselves 'if I do not get into this course what would be then next preferred course?; this should be placed in the second highest space on the CAO form. Applicants should continue this process until they have filled as many places as possible on each of the two CAO lists. Applicants should try to make the best decision they can at this stage but also remember that they may make changes to their list during the change of mind process between May and July.
Applicants should remember that they will not be disadvantaged by making early application to the CAO. The system is organised to allow applicants to make as many changes as they would like to their form between the time they apply and February 1. The CAO even offers a discounted price of €25 for those who apply before January 20. Therefore, students should begin their application even if they have not fully completed their research.
A number of further education courses are now open for application or will be opening over the Christmas break so students should also begin applying for these courses, most of which are also known as Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. In the main, they offer Level 5 qualifications.
Finally, well done to all Leaving Cert students for their hard work so far this year, it is not an easy challenge for anyone. Merry Christmas and best of luck.
*Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin.
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