Guest Post: Unhappy with Leaving Cert Results? Don’t Worry!

Congratulations! You have received the big L.C results. Some of you were massively successful, as far as the system goes – and undoubtedly there are the usual 600 points scholars. Although similarly, there are those who did their personal best, be that 100 points or less.  However you have performed, whether you have passed or failed, I want to congratulate all of you!  Why?  Quite simply, you have gotten through the most challenging exam you will face in your life!  You have completed a series of mindboggling exams – and you’ve gotten out alive!  So congratulations on that alone!

But, what now?  You’re finished school and it’s all done and over with.  The world is quite literally at your feet.  Be careful though, don’t let it swallow you up in one go, you be the one to embrace it!

Your options are truly endless.  Some of you may decide to finish with education, travel or get a job.  Many of you are planning to go to college with your L.C results.  Others may be horrified with their results, and can only see one option – to repeat the entire fiasco in hope of getting better results next time.

But what if you didn’t get the points you need, and you are not prepared to repeat the Leaving Cert?  This is completely understandable.  As I can recall from my own L.C days, the anxiety and pressure one feels for an entire year is incredible – In my case, it was too incredible to even consider repeating the entire nightmare start to finish.

But, what other options exist?  Unfortunately, we are taught in school that if you don’t get the points, just repeat.  Quite simply, there is another option which is rarely encouraged in the school system – It is called FETAC.

I finished my Leaving Cert in 2010, and at the time I was faced with a dilemma.  Firstly, I was disappointed with my results, of which I got 290 points.  Secondly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college, or even if I wanted to go there!  I had filled out the CAO form guessingly; and had applied for childcare related degrees which I didn’t even want to do.  When I received my results, I knew there was no way I would get a CAO offer.  The courses I had applied for were in the 300 point region.

The following week when my friends got offers, I did feel mildly disappointed.  After all, I believed they were going to go to college and I wasn’t.  Shortly after this, I decided to abandon my thoughts on childcare and consider Journalism instead as an option.  But, wait?!  Was it too late?!  The CAO was finished with — I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the points for Journalism anyway!

Of course it wasn’t too late!  I applied for a one year FETAC Level 5 course in Print Journalism (commonly referred to as a PLC course).  I got in, but I could not complete the course due to personal reasons.  This consequently led to further anxiety, and it felt like I’d never get into college.  All the while, friends were living it up around the country in posh accommodation and being educated.  I felt completely excluded.

But I didn’t give up hope.  I told myself that I would go to college!  To start the following year (September 2011), I applied for another FETAC Level 5 course in TV and Film Production.  You may wonder – Why the sudden change from Journalism?  Well, I just knew (and know) that I wanted to be involved in the media.  I had thoughts about being a TV/Radio Presenter or Journalist; so the course I applied for seemed right!  I’d gain experience in television – and hopefully start off my journey to becoming a top-notch representative in the media!

I got accepted for the course, and went to college full-time this year to get my certificate.  I studied 9 modules; although this varies in different colleges.

Of these, I studied the typical FETAC modules – Communications, Health and Safety and Work Experience.  In most of the courses provided, you’ll have to do these three modules. Not to worry though, they’re not that difficult for the most part, and as long as you do your work you’ll be fine.  Of course, I got to study more specific areas I was interested in, too!  Script Writing, Media Analysis and Digital Film Production!

Here’s the best part – Once you pass a FULL FETAC course (individual modules don’t count as a full award), you can apply through the CAO with those results, and not the ones you got in your Leaving Cert.  The application is the same for FETAC applicants as it is for Leaving Cert ones; the same deadlines, offer dates and fees apply!

But, what’s the difference?  Well, you’re referred to as a Non-Standard Applicant, which just basically means you’re not a Leaving Cert student OR a Mature Student.  Also, if and when you receive an offer from CAO, it may be on a different date as you’re open to Round Zero (early August). There are many advantages to finding out your place earlier than L.C students.  For one, it means you can organise accommodation if necessary EARLY and beat the L.C rush.  Although you are open to receiving offers in Round Zero, you can also get offers in Round One (regardless of whether you accept your offer in Round Zero or not!)

So, who are you competing with? Generally, you’re not competing with other L.C students, you’re competing with other FETAC applicants like yourself.  There are a variety of FETAC courses on offer; all of which have their own requirements.  For many Level 6/7/8 courses you apply for in the CAO, there are certain FETAC courses ONLY which can be used as an entry route.  For others, any FETAC course will suffice (as long as it’s a full award).  So, if you’re taking the FETAC route, I’d strongly advise researching the course before doing it.  If you’re looking to get into an IT/University the following year with your FETAC results, make sure you do the research to find out if the course you’re planning to do is actually recognised as an entry route.  If not, don’t panic!  There are plenty of other courses on offer that will prove as an entry route in the CAO.  Whatever area you’re hoping to pursue, find the right course for you here.

If you’re like I was after I did my Leaving Cert, and you’re totally confused about what you want to do in college (or even if you want to go there), don’t panic!  You’re most certainly not alone.  Very few 17/18 year olds will know where there life is headed.  That’s why it’s important to experiment in different areas and discover where your talents lie!  This is where a FETAC course could come in handy – You’re not committing yourself to a full degree yet, you get a chance to test the area before doing a degree in it!  Below are some of the pros and cons associated with doing a FETAC/PLC course:

 Pros:

  1. You get a chance to dabble in an area before plunging straight into a degree you’re unsure of.
  2. You are only committing yourself to one academic year, so even if you dislike the course, this will likely prove as an incentive to ‘stick the course out’.
  3. You get a chance to get good results for Level 6/7/8 without having to suffer your way through monotonous subjects like Irish and Maths (or English for some people!)
  4. A great foundation for those unsure of what path they want to take.
  5. You don’t have to rely on your Leaving Cert results to succeed; and get a chance to compete in the CAO with more interesting subjects you have a genuine liking for.
  6. You don’t have to pay full college fees, but around €500 for the academic year.  A great opportunity for those who can’t afford the €2,000+ at the minute! (Who can?!)

Cons:

  1. Many further education colleges do not offer clubs/societies to the same extent as IT’s/Universities.  There may also be a limited student atmosphere as you will most likely have students in your course from all ages – and not all of them will be out of Leaving Cert (although a lot will!)
  2. Your tutors may be less qualified than lecturers in IT’s/Universities – but of course this is not to say they wont be as good!
  3. Some aspects of the mandatory modules (ie. Communications) are unexciting and pointless.  (For instance, you will have to do letter/email writing and write a report on how you did it!)

Why would I continue college after a PLC course? Isn’t that enough?

It is entirely up to you!  However, with unemployment constantly on the rise in Ireland, a Level 5 Certificate is rarely enough to get a good job out of.  But anything’s possible!

Are there other options after your PLC course instead of the CAO?

Certainly!  Some further education colleges offer follow-on courses of a Level 6 or even Level 7 standard! (B.C.F.E and D.L.C.F.E are examples of this) Other options are of course to travel or emigrate with your qualification (if available to you!)

So, if you didn’t get the L.C points you wanted, and you don’t wish to repeat, why not consider a FETAC course?! A great way to get started would be to browse through the Further Education colleges in Ireland! If you’re lucky, you might find a school/college in your area that you’re interested in!  If not, moving away from home is a great way to get independence!

If you’re wondering if my course worked out for me — Yes, it did!  I got offered a place in DIT in Round Zero, and although it was No.6 in my CAO application, I’m not panicking!  Ideally, it is not the course I want, but Round One is next week, and fingers crossed that I get offered something else there!  If not, I may consider a follow-on course (BTEC) in the television area!  You will soon realise that other options nearly always present themselves to you if your wishes don’t instantly come true!

So, whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s right for you!  The world is at your feet; and you’re only young!  Life will only pass you out if you let it; and your Leaving Cert should never determine your relevance in this life!  So, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back for your achievements, and for goodness sake, do what you want!  A year or two down the line, you’ll realise just how irrelevant the L.C was, and the world is a much bigger place that expands beyond study!

Aisling Kelleher is a nineteen year old student from Co. Roscommon, Ireland. She makes youtube videos here and tweets @kelleherqueen. She is currently working on a youtube video about the Leaving Cert results, and wants input from students across the country. For further details, see here.