Choices

Thitwo-roads-diverged1s blog originally appeared at http://www.SirPatrickofIreland.wordpress.com

Choices creep up on you at the most inconsiderate times. You’ll often be sleeping, when they’ll grasp you and tear you from your slumber; or perhaps you’re at work, tapping your pen off the desk, questioning what you’re all about. But either way, choices will haunt you at some point in your life.

Choices are completely terrifying for being precisely what they are. They involve the conscious decision to eliminate various paths in life. They involve choosing one path, when, let’s be honest, you have no idea whatsoever which path is the right one.

Choices have terrified me in this selfish little way of theirs. They alert you to your impending doom at some point. It’s nagging – this nagging little creature tugging at a fragile part of your mind. And you know, in that moment, that you are going to give up so much. You are going to follow a path. How do you ever know which one to choose?

I remember this time last year, being torn in the shortening nights as my thoughts ran away with all of my potential futures. I was at school, rapidly approaching my final exams which would, in many respects, determine which road would be travelled. There was this haunting awareness in me, one particular night, that something I was not ready for was going to hit me. It could hurt me; potentially, it could polish the final cobblestone in my path. But then again, it could also see my whole road repossessed for failure to pay back the loan.

I had to choose a college course. Simple enough – it involved walking blindly into a university where I would study a course I really had no idea whether I would like or not.

As you can imagine, I was confused. I could choose to follow my gut instinct – to study English and History – or my logic, which told me to study Journalism. Undoubtedly both would leave me jobless in a country that has left me and my generation behind – yet I still had to make that choice. I had to just go for one; just decide which one was less stupid, really.

At the end of the day, every choice falls down to the simple question of what you place more trust in: your gut instinct or your logic. Both are undoubtedly important, but ironically, in this too, you must make a choice, and decide which you will mute, and which you will hear.

Try not to fear choices. Remain content that you can never follow more than one path in life. Keep remembering your reasons for loving your choice; remember that even if it was a bad choice, it is still important for your life journey, and your personal human experience.  Robert Frost spoke of The Road Not Taken. He, like most people, wondered what a different future he could have had by making a different decision. It is impossible not to wonder about the other road; however you need to always remember that your road was right for you at that moment in time, and you should always be glad that you took it for that reason alone.

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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!

A Day to go… Good Luck!

And so, here we are. Today, on Tuesday the 14th of August, it is officially one day until students across the country open that envelope containing the ticket to their destiny.

Well, OK, maybe it’s not quite that dramatic. But it’s still exciting. Well, maybe not exciting, but it certainly is terrifying. After weeks of blissful ignorance and exam fuelled nightmares, we will be plunged into the results. This time tomorrow, there will be no more wondering about results. It will be over.

I know how you’re feeling. You’re probably doing exactly what I’m doing. Since I got up this morning, I have felt sick. I keep looking at the clock, and every hour that goes by, I thank an imaginary higher power that I am one hour closer to those results.

If I could give you any advice, fellow students, it would be this: Relax. Just relax. It’s not all that bad. At the end of the day, these are just results, nothing more. They don’t determine our destiny, as we have been taught to believe. There is always an option, always a way to achieve what we want to achieve. We are the youth of Ireland. We’re made of tougher stuff than they think, aren’t we?

Watch this space tomorrow for some interesting and thought provoking blogs. And make sure to tell me how you get on, whether or not you’re happy with your results and where you think you’re going to college.

And students… Best of luck!

1 Week to go…

I feel sick. Well, sickness would be an understatement for quite how I’m feeling right now. You know that feeling – it’s a feeling almost exclusive to exam results. It comes when you remember that it’s drawing near, and you get this feeling in your stomach that feels like burning. And then the occasional lightheadedness and tears… But there’s not much we can do at this point. The Leaving Cert results are rapidly cantering towards us. And we’re as well just to be prepared.

On the other hand, while it may be terrifyingly close, we should also bear in mind that this will be a relief. For what feels like the first time in ages, we can realise that the Leaving Cert is totally and utterly behind us. I know we have the exams finished, but to me it still feels like it’s hanging over my head, like an ominous bucket of paint. It’s always going to be looming until the results are over and done with.

And so for that reason, I’m looking forward to Wednesday the 15th of August. Because once I have that slip of paper in my hands, I can sigh. I can say either I’m proud of myself or This has gone horribly wrong. At least then I’ll know how I did.

I know exactly how many of you are feeling right now. So for this last week, all the advice I can offer you is this: Relax. Take a deep breath. Listen to some relaxing music, go on a walk, and remember there’s nothing that can be changed about it now.

I suppose I’m lucky that I’m going on holidays to Waterford tomorrow morning, and hopefully it’ll allow me to take my mind off it.

So to you all, hang in there, it’ll be over before you know it!