So, today is Leaving Cert Results Day. Students will open envelopes after months of waiting and agonising, and the knowledge of those results will be here. It’s a day that has both students and parents on edge. At 9am, in schools around the country, the wait will be over. It’s something I remember vividly, that wait, the going into the school. I remember walking into the principals office, him handing me the envelope and telling me he hoped I was happy with them, and walking out into the hall to open them. A mixture of emotions filled the hall – some were ecstatic, others less so. One girl sobbed in disappointment, openly.
I don’t remember the exact results I got in my Leaving Cert. In fact, when I was asked a while ago by someone what subjects I did, it took more than a few minutes of thought to remember them all. It’s now 9 years ago. It has faded from mattering, pretty much within the first few weeks of going to college. For the amount of pressure I put on myself for it, the future me is looking back and wondering just what was it for.
It DID matter to me at the time, of course, like it does for the students receiving results today. I had ideas of what I wanted to do with my life. Teachers and society had honed in on how these exams were so important in getting there. Not only am I not headed down that road anymore, but I don’t feel like it is emphasised strongly enough just how many other ways there are to get to places outside of one set of exams. Career guidance teachers mentioned it in passing, certainly, but the emphasis to us was put on points, and CAO applications, and what colleges we would head to.
Much as my advice to those sitting the Leaving Cert was to not do a post-mortem after exams, my advice is similar to Leaving Cert results students today. Regardless of what the envelope contains, whether it’s the maximum points, or below what you need, or something in the middle – that envelope does NOT define you. You are SO much more than the sum of the numbers and letters on that page.
The Leaving Cert is an exam which works for a subsection of society – those who examine well and have rote learning down. There are so many other types of minds, of people, who don’t fit into that mold. It doesn’t make them less intelligent, it doesn’t make them less likely to succeed. Their brains work differently. They may be more creative, better at long term projects than short term cramming. The “How many points did you get?” conversations that will be buzzing around today can forget this.
At 17, I wanted to pursue Drama and English in university. When my Leaving Cert Results came around, I got the points. This fact thrilled me(but I still sobbed at my English grade which I felt was lower than I deserved). Within three weeks of starting college, I decided I HATED English, and switched out of it to Economics. Half way through the year I was debating dropping out, and in the end wound up switching to a general Arts Degree, with Economics and Celtic Civilisation. (I currently use neither, but that’s a whole other story).
I have friends who have law degrees who decided to change tack and go into graduate medicine. Friends who qualified for medicine, dropped out within weeks and now have degrees in neuroscience and psychology. Engineers who went into the humanities, lawyers who became journalists. Look at the leader of our country – Leo Varadkar – a qualified doctor who has pursued politics instead for the last decade. Deciding at 17 what to do for the rest of your life simply isn’t going to work out that way for a lot of people – and that’s okay. It’s okay to not know, to change your mind. The choice I made at 17 is not in any way linked to the postgraduate course I’m about to embark on in Public Health, but the road I took to get there (life in general) certainly is.
I realise that those examples are all from people who, like me, pursued a third level education on leaving school. That’s down to my surroundings, certainly. However, there are also many around me who left school and pursued FETAC courses, who went straight out to work, who returned to education as mature students when they knew what they wanted to do. There are different pathways to absolutely everything, and your Leaving Cert Results make up merely one of those ways.
Congratulations to you if you are thrilled with your results today. Enjoy the feeling, lap up the congratulations and give yourself a pat on the back. But if they’re not what you want, or you need, have faith. These things do all work out in the end. In a few years, I guarantee you, you’ll be looking back and wondering what all the crying was about.
To the parents of those receiving Leaving Cert results this morning – have a well earned cup of tea in silence this morning – this has been your battle too. Time to relax a bit. The end is near.
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1800 265 165 – This Leaving Cert Freephone helpline is open from 10 am on results day, Wednesday, 15th August, to take calls from students and parents seeking advice and up to date information on what choices are available to students. It will open for three days the week of the results. It will also be open for three days next week, after the release of CAO Round One offers. It’s run by the National Parents’ Council Post Primary (NPCpp) and sponsored by eir.