College Acceptance – A Reflection

It’s that time of year again – young people throughout Ireland found out today if they have gotten their top college choice. It’s an odd time for young people, for many reasons. Regardless of whether they knew exactly what they wanted to study or not, this is the first time, really, for most, that theu lives have not been laid out on a set pathway.

Since the age of about four or five, for most young people in Ireland, the prescribed path through life has been to go to school, five days a week, bar holiday breaks, September through to May or June. The most difficult decisions you will may have faced with regards to your future will probably have concerned what subjects you would take to exam stage, and whether you would attempt the higher or lower level papers for those exams.

But then the end of school began to loom, and suddenly young people were faced with the biggest decision of their lives to date: What did they want to do with their lives, exactly?

I was one of the lucky few who knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to study Psychology. Specifically, I wanted to study in Trinity College Dublin, because I had done a weeks’ worth of work experience there thanks to a family member, and had fallen in love with the limited glimpse I had gotten of the place. I was quite academically-minded, but the points required to get a place in TCD were high – 560 out of a possible 600, just to be in with a shot – given that the course was usually oversubscribed, not everyone who got the points usually got in.

In my first attempt at the Leaving Cert, I got 420 points – respectable, but I had stubbornly refused to drop from the higher maths paper to the lower, having scraped a pass in the mock exam the previous January, and I failed the final exam. Not by much, but that didn’t matter. I decided to repeat the year, (and dropped down to ordinary level maths) and came out with thirty points more and a pass in maths.

After two attempts I still didn’t have the required points for the course I wanted, so I took an alternate route – I went to a private college, Dublin Business School. For more money and fewer points, I finally had my psychology course, albeit not the one I’d had my heart set on.

Ten years on, and not only do I have that primary degree, but also a masters in Applied Psychology and I’m currently working on getting my PhD. My point is, for anyone who doesn’t get their offers today – take a moment to be disappointed, yes, but then dust yourself off and look at the alternatives – and there are alternatives to everything. If you really want it, there’s a way to get it.

And to those who still really aren’t sure what they want to do, that’s okay too. It’s ok to do a course just because you’re interested in it, or to go out and work or travel instead while you figure out who you are and what you want out of life. It’s hard to try to figure all that out while you’re also juggling doing the Leaving Cert and figuring out what being an adult means, so even if it feels like you’re the only one of your friends who hasn’t got it all figured out, that’s totally fine. Who knows but that course you’re interested in could spark a fire in your belly that’ll turn into a fabulous career for you? Maybe you’ll bond with someone on your travels and together you’ll build something beautiful. You’re young and you have the whole of your life to figure these things out. The worst thing you can do is let that three figure points total, and the offers or lack thereof for college places define you – even if you did get everything you’d hoped for. They are important right now, in a way, but they are not you, you are so much more than that. Regardless of the events of the past week or two, don’t ever give up on yourself – keep going, do your best and you can  hold your head high.

This is the biggest thing in your life right now, but trust me, it won’t always be that way. It’s really true that in 5 years time, nobody but you will even remember what you got, and nobody ever asks! What’s important to take a moment and congratulate yourself on getting through the last two years. It was a tough auld road, but here you are on the other side, and the world is your oyster, go make your own kind of pearl!

If you’re struggling with dealing with your results, or CAO offers, or anything at all, please talk to someone about it. Family and friends are good, but it’s ok if you don’t feel comfortable talking to them. Here are some places ts to go for help:
This post was featured on the ‘A Lust for Life’ website at in 2016

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