Advice to Leaving Certs of 2013

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve been there. Many before you have been there. You’re already worrying tirelessly about the Leaving Cert. Your nails have been chewed down so far that they hurt, and rescue remedy has become your only true friend.

Lol, JK! The truth is that right now, the Leaving Cert does seem like something so far away that it can’t even be seen yet. It’s understandable that you’d feel that way. You do have nine months, and it seems like a very long time. So I’m going to give you some advice on how to face this Leaving Cert head on, whilst keeping your sanity and your happiness intact.

  1. Study now! – This is probably going to be the most unpopular piece of advice for a Leaving Cert student, so in advance, I’m sorry. And I also know that about 85% of you won’t heed this advice. Still, you should take heed of it. When I did my Leaving Cert last year, I made a terrible error. For the first term I didn’t really do that much work, believing that it could wait. I did do a bit of studying, I kept up with the workload, but I wasn’t doing nearly enough. I regretted it a lot when, after Christmas, I was plunged into several weeks of sickening cramming for the infamous Mocks/Pres. It took the Mocks for me to realise that the Leaving Cert wasn’t that far away at all, it was just around the corner. I don’t want to stress you out, but the truth is that nine months isn’t a very long time. Start the work now, and by the second term you’ll be well on top of things. You’ll have a lot of the course covered, and you won’t have to go through the panic your heedless friends will go through.
  2. Study Timetable – I know, yet again, unpopular advice. But it really is incredibly helpful. Looking back on my Leaving Cert year, I don’t know how I would have gotten by sometimes without a study timetable. The best thing to do is write out all your subjects, decide on the amount of hours you’re doing a week, and divide up those hours between your subjects. You don’t have to divide the hours up evenly. It’s probably a good idea to give some extra hours to the subjects that you struggle with, but it’s also important to give extra time to the subjects that you really love and want to do really well in.
  3. Research college courses: A very important one for the first term in particular, because in the second and third terms, you just won’t have the time to do the research. Get all the information you can on the area you’re interested in and colleges that have courses in that area. Then read up about it on the internet, in the prospectus. Go to open days too, and that’ll give you a great idea of whether or not it’s the right choice for you. Don’t feel stressed if you have no idea what course to do, you’re in the same boat as nearly every single other Leaving Cert student. How the hell could you know what you want to do if you’ve never done it before? If you can, try contacting somebody in the profession you’re interested in and ask for advice, or if you can find the time, try and get work experience. If you’re still at a loss, take out a pen and paper, and write down all the things you like and the things that interest you. If you find that you’ve written down something like the function of the human mind, then Psychology could interest you. Or if you’ve written down I love to read perhaps English Literature is the course for you. Don’t listen to anybody who tells you not to do a course because there are no jobs in that area. The recession will not last forever. By the time you graduate, the situation will surely have improved greatly, and even if it hasn’t, you’ll probably be happier unemployed with a qualification you loved getting than being employed in an area you hate.
  4. Stop with the internet and the television: Yet more unpopular advice, and I am really sorry to have to give it. The chances are that this year, your internet and television habits will suffer. You’re better off looking at it now. Do you come in from school and spend three hours in front of the telly and then another two on Facebook? That’s going to have to change if you want a good Leaving Cert. Look at what you watch on television – is any of it available at a later hour, or online? If so, you’ll do better to watch it that way. The worst thing you can do while studying is take an hour break to watch Grey’s Anatomy. The chances are you won’t go back and finish studying afterwards. For the internet, you could ask your parents to disconnect the modem and hide the plug somewhere, or even more drastically, take the battery out of your laptop and get someone to hide it for you. At least then the temptation is gone!
  5. Don’t over-do it – Despite everything, keep yourself grounded. At the end of the day, the Leaving Cert is only an exam. It may be important, but it’s really not as important as people make it out to be either. Yes, it’s important you try your best, but if you find that you’re studying at two o’clock in the morning then you need to re-evaluate the importance of this whole thing. Sleep and relaxation are just as important as keeping on top of the workload.
  6. Relax – Set some time aside at the end of your evening studying just to chill out, watch television, hang out with your family or friends – something, anything other than studying. Going for a walk at the end of a long study session can do you the world of good and leave you feeling refreshed and happy again. Get a lot of sleep, too. You will get tired, because studying is exhausting. Don’t let yourself get sick from not getting enough rest.

So that is my advice. Leaving Cert students of 2013, I salute you, and wish you the very best of luck for your Leaving Cert and for the future.

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.

D-Day – 15th of August, 2012

Today is D-Day. Today, 55,000 students across Ireland went to various schools, and were handed their Leaving Certificate results.

There were tears of joy, tears of absolute euphoria, and tears of sadness. There were laughs of contempt, horror and delight. After weeks of waiting, students finally know how they did, and most likely know whether or not they got a place in the course they wanted.

How do you feel about your results? Happiness? Sadness? Maybe a slight tinge of anger that the A2 you got wasn’t an A1?

Just remember, that even if you didn’t get whatever results you hoped for, you tried your best. These results aren’t a reflection on you as a person. In fact, they’re not nearly as important as we believe right now.

I was quite pleased with my results, getting 420 points overall. I got my A1 in English, but was met with some disappointment when I got an A2 in History. But you know what? I’m happy. I got enough points to do English and History in UCD, and my dreams have more or less been achieved.

So for now I leave you with this: Have fun. Let loose. Go mad. Just enjoy yourself, and learn to be happy with whatever you have achieved today.

Good day, students!

Three Weeks To Go…

Hi students – first I’d like to apologize for my long absence. I felt that through the summer months there was little, if no point in blogging about the Leaving Cert. If you are anything like me, then you wanted to forget those two repulsive words until the 15th of August.

So I just thought I’d pop in and spoil your whole summer by reminding you that it’s three weeks today until the Leaving Cert results are out. Yep – there it is. I’ve shit all over your summer, and for that I’m sorry. But hey, at least now you know, so you can start to have anxiety dreams about it.

So how has everyone’s summer holidays been going? Personally I’m bored out of my mind, and desperately want to have my mind occupied with something again. Not that I’m wishing I was doing the LC again, just that… maybe I could have something to do with my days other than read women’s magazines and facebook statuses.

Anyway, you kids make sure not to stress too much about this “exam” lark. You don’t have to think about the results until they arrive, if you want. I would love not to think about them, but I can’t not think about it. If you’re like me, then spend the next three weeks rocking back and forth in a dark room in a corner crying and eating chocolate. Good day. 🙂

Irish Paper 2

Today was the lovely and elusive Irish Paper 2, an exam that has also been a little bit daunting because it marks the beginning of a new exam paper.

Overall,  I think the ordinary level paper was quite a fair and nice paper. There were two comprehensions on Evanne Ní Chuilinn and Dáithí Ó hEithir. Luckily for us, they were worth 50 marks each, taking up quite a large portion of the marks of the exam. They were also quite straight forward to answer.

Then came the infamous prós and filiocht – Pros and stories – that we’ve all been dreading. The Pros that came up was Hurlamaboc and Oisin i dTír na nÓg – to non leaving cert students, yes, that is the story that you heard about ten thousand times as a child. I think the questions on Hurlamaboc were challenging, and you would have had to have a good knowledge of the story to be able to answer some of them.The question on Oisin of Tir na nOg was also difficult, and you would have had to had a good standard of Irish for it.

The poetry examined was Geibheann by Caitlin Maude and An Tearrach Thiar by Mairtin O’Direain. I personally found the questions on these quite challenging. We were asked for images, feelings, and whether or not we liked the poem. But if you had a good knowledge of both of these poems (which I didn’t have) then you would have been fine.

I haven’t heard anything about the Higher Level paper yet (they were still doing the exam when I finished) so I’d love to hear from some of you. How did it go for everyone? Are there any poor unfortunates out there who have biology too today? If there are tell us about how it went in the comments.

Good luck everyone, and remember – we’re nearly done now. 🙂

Maths Paper 2 and Irish Paper 1

Today was the day that people have been waiting for ever since the bizarre term Project Maths was uttered in the classroom back in fifth year. It always seemed like something elusive and strange, like it didn’t really exist.

The exam happened this morning from 9:30 to 12:00. How was it, you ask? Well (for ordinary level anyway), I’d say it was quite a nice paper. The questions were generally quite clear, and there was nothing very difficult. Nearly everyone I spoke to said it was way better than they had expected.

I think a large part of this reasoning is that we had all expected the questions to be utterly impossible. But they just weren’t. On another note, I still think I failed. But I don’t care anyway, so that’s beside the point.

Irish was from 2:00 until 3:50 or 4:20 depending on your level. Again, I did the ordinary level paper. And what can I say? Well, it was quite clear cut really. I wrote an email about a holiday to Australia and for the scéal I wrote about breaking my ankle during a match (I know, the hilarity!) The aural was very fair too, I think. The questions weren’t particularly difficult, something that a lot of people had worried about after Leaving Cert aural CDs were played for Junior Cert students last week by accident and contingency papers had to be sent out instead.

So overall, today was a good day, although this probably has a lot to do with the fact that I did ordinary level in both of the subjects. Tell me what you thought of today in the comments. I particularly want to hear opinions on the Higher Level Papers.

Good day students, and happy studying 🙂