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What Next? When the points don’t add up – post leaving certificate options

    Last Wednesday saw 56,000 receive their leaving certificate results; a celebration for some and a disappointment for others. Today’s leaving certificate grades are measured in terms of CAO points and for the majority of leaving certificate students; that is the only place where their grades have meaning and value. What might appear on the surface as a healthy leaving certificate result might leave students short of the necessary points for the course they chased with hard work during their leaving certificate course.

    There are endless anecdotal stories of past leaving certificate candidates who failed to get their number one or even number two CAO choice; those who never made a CAO application and others who just didn’t pay much heed at all to the race for grades, places and points. Many went on to be very successful in their own right without attending a higher education institute.

    However, there are students who know that their results are not a true reflection of their ability and of their effort made; there are those who know if they worked that little bit harder they could have got the grades they wanted and needed. These are the cohort who would rather face it all again to get that course of their dreams as regret is too much of a burden to carry for the rest of their lives.

    The decision to repeat is not to be taken lightly; it requires reflection and it requires professional advice. Afterall, there is no guarantee that going back will lead to higher grades. Some students will realistically reflect and know they didn’t do well because they just didn’t put in the work. However, there is no point in going back if the attitude to work remains the same. The year has to be one of motivation, dedication and commitment to specific grade aims.

    Aside from repeating, there are some really excellent alternatives: a gap year, which can be filled with work experience, volunteering, work in itself or undertaking some part-time courses to explore what you really want to do. VECs and third level colleges offer an excellent programme of part-time and evening courses where the fees are minimal and the commitment required is usually one evening a week for a few weeks.  Future employers look favourably on Gap Years when they are structured and well-thought out and where there is evidence of development and learning and skill acquisition.

    Post Leaving Certificate Courses are also a credible way of gaining FETAC qualifications. PLCs still have vacancies at this time of year on some of their courses. They usually continue interviewing up until the end of August. These courses can be a stepping stone into a Higher Education Institute or they can lead into direct employment. Some PLC courses offer many students an alternative entry into the CAO course that they initially missed out on in the first place.

    When all options are considered; sometimes repeating the Leaving Cert can be the better option but there needs to be a definite plan in place to ensure there is no further disappointment. Some students choose not to go back to their original secondary school and choose to attend a school that specialises in the leaving certificate programme. There are some secondary schools that have a special leaving certificate class set up for repeat students. These classes are extremely focused, where the students are treated more like first year college students.

    If you do choose to repeat and the reason you are repeating is to maximise points; look at your choice of subjects and establish where you can gain points. Remember, you cannot combine two leaving certificates for points purposes but you can use one leaving certificate results for minimum entry requirements, which means you can take up a new subject if you think you could get a better grade in it aside form sitting a required subject again. For example, if you have a C in maths or any one of the required languages, you could drop it and take up another subject like Home Economics if you believe you could get a better grade in home economics than you could in your maths or languages. You must be extremely motivated and dedicated to complete a two year course in one year.

    There are repeat leaving certificate students who will relay personal stories of how happy they were to repeat and how much they actually enjoyed the leaving certificate experience second time around. And there are others who will tell you that what seemed like a curse at the time of getting a disappointing leaving certificate ended up being a blessing in disguise – when it changed their course and career path for the better.