My story: 'I did foundation maths and now I'm in university'

Thomas Ward | Dublin City University

Thomas Ward (20) from Finglas did a post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course and is now entering his second year at DCU. Photo: Arthur Carron

Having done foundation level maths, Thomas Ward's options for progressing directly to higher education based on his Leaving Cert were severely limited.

Two years on, the 20-year-old from Finglas, Dublin is entering second year in Dublin City University (DCU).

Notwithstanding the hurdle presented by having studied maths at foundation level, he was determined to get a degree. His top choices were BA (Hons)in International Relations at DCU, and programmes elsewhere in business and tourism.

Thomas learned there were other pathways to college, and that it didn't all come down to Leaving Cert grades and points.

So, in February 2016, a few months before his Leaving Cert at St Aidan's CBS, Whitehall, he applied for a post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course in business at Coláiste Íde, Finglas.

By the time his Leaving Cert results came in, he had that in his back pocket.

He remembers that time two years ago when "everyone was getting their college courses and all my mates were happy with their offers and I was left doing my PLC. It was a mixture of emotions. I was excited, disappointed and wasn't sure what to expect".

He need not have had any concerns because he took to the course very quickly. Like other PLCs, it offers the possibility of progression to higher education, through a competition.

Thomas found great support in Coláiste Íde and says the course "gave me the confidence I needed. I felt 'I can do this, I can study'." He particularly valued the one-to-one attention, where tutors "would point out where you were going wrong. They got to know you as a person and as a student."

The results of the tests at Christmas confirmed to him that he was doing well. "The more the time went on, the more competitive I was getting", he says.

By now he had decided that the BA in International Relations was his preferred course. Not surprising for a young man who would like a career in politics or working on human rights with an organisation like the United Nations.

There were eight modules in the PLC and Thomas was "aiming to achieve eight distinctions in order to stand a chance of getting into DCU."

While he believes nothing compares to the stress of the Leaving Cert, he put himself under a lot of pressure to deliver the right result. "I would tell myself that this is the only chance I will get to go to college as I was not going to do another PLC if I didn't get any college offers. "

It all paid off and eight distinctions later, Thomas received a CAO Round Zero offer last year.

It was, he says, "the proudest moment ever. After going in a different direction to try to get to college, I was successful."