Helping you get through tough times

CAO, Leaving Cert results and beyond

Whatever your situation, remember the Leaving Cert isn’t the be all and end all. There are ways and means of getting where you want, and James’ personal story illustrates this.

For some, getting results will be a time of relief and celebration. For others, results bring disappointment and worry.

SignpostOvercoming disappointment

In school, I had no clear plan about college and starting a career.

As the CAO deadline loomed, my friends all seemed sure of their goals and future plans. One friend wanted to be an engineer, making a living working on cars.

Another wanted to study history and eventually become a lecturer. I had no grand plan like that.

After much deliberation, I decided I would go down the science route and filled out my CAO form accordingly.

The Leaving Cert came and went, and I felt pretty optimistic about my chances. The first course on my list was over 500 points, and I knew I’d little chance of landing this one.

Real aim

This wasn’t an issue though, as I was really aiming for my second choice. It was a similar course in a different institution, but with a much more friendly point total. Even with the points set to rise, I was almost certain I’d land the course I wanted.

I was wrong. I had missed out on my course by five points. Five points! To say I was heartbroken would be an understatement.

I got an offer from my third choice. It was another science course, but further from home. I hadn’t given this choice much thought, as I was convinced I wouldn’t end up there.

However, after doing some research, feelings of disappointment gave way to hope and optimism. I talked to my friends and family about the future, and by the time September rolled around, I was raring to go in my new course.

Settling in

The first few weeks in college were a shock to the system. From the word go, I was bombarded with dates and deadlines, essays and assignments. I already felt overwhelmed and the work hadn’t truly even begun.

Feelings of anxiety were a common occurrence and I even suffered panic attacks in lectures.I knew help was available though and actively sought it out. I talked to my peers, my lecturers, and my parents and they all help me overcome some of my fears.

I made an appointment with my GP about the panic attacks. With his help, the attacks quickly became a thing of the past. It took a few weeks, but I eventually settled in, enjoying all college life had to offer.

Exam time

It’s fair to say I’m pretty easygoing when it comes to exams. It’s also fair to say that this could have been my downfall. First year exams came and went, with not much stress and even smaller amounts of study.

Unfortunately, this attitude was reflected in my results and I just passed the year by the skin of my teeth.I had a relaxing summer and came back in September ready to really put the head down for my second year.

Getting over hurdles

Despite my increased effort, I continued to struggle. I was really enjoying aspects of the course, but I really couldn’t get to grips with the maths at all. Several exams and repeats later, I had failed the year.

I discussed my options with my family, and we decided I should try and repeat the year. I found myself back in college in September, ready to tackle second year for the second time.

Armed with a new found sense of confidence, and a PHD student as a tutor, I got stuck in. However, even with all this help, it began to dawn on me that perhaps this course really wasn’t for me.

Faced with the prospect of even more repeats, I decided it was time for a change.

Never too late

That summer was a very difficult time. So many negative emotions were swirling around in my head. I felt anxious about the future. I had doubts about my own ability. I had an overwhelming sense of guilt, as I felt I’d let my parents down by not seeking for academic help sooner.

It would have been easy to let these feeling get on top of me, but I knew I had to be positive and look to the future. I decided to focus my energy on coming up with a plan of action for the next year.

First, I contacted the support services in my college, to try to get an idea of what options were open to me. They told me if I could find a course I wanted to do in the same college that I could avoid the lengthy CAO process.


I searched the web, attended open days, and finally I settled upon a course I thought would suit my talents and interests. The new course was like a breath of fresh air, and I truly couldn’t be happier.

It presented new challenges, but ones I was better equipped to face. I met lots of new people, learned new skills, and can honestly say I’m excited about heading back for my second year in September.

Quickly forgotten

So you see, the Leaving Cert is not the be all and end all. You will be surprised how little you hear it mentioned once you get into college.

College is a fantastic experience and if you balance the work side of things with the social side, you will have a fantastic time. It can be tough, but use the support services there for you. They are there to help and remind you that you’re not alone.

What can I do now?

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