Guidance counsellor Jenny Blayney lists out the options to consider if your child didn’t get the Leaving Certificate results they had hoped for.
First things first
When your child’s Leaving Certificate results come out, no matter how well or otherwise your child does, they need to be congratulated on their achievement. Praise your child for sticking with their studies, going through the slog, and for not quitting. The Leaving Cert exams are intense and students deserve a massive congratulations on passing this milestone and opening up new opportunities for themselves.
Opening up that envelope and seeing a result that is not what your child (and indeed you) had hoped for is never an easy reality to face. If they don’t get the points they wanted, let them feel disappointed. Assure your child that it’s perfectly normal to be upset if things don’t go to plan, but not to feel despair. These things always work out in the end.
“Remind them that their results are not a measure of their value as a person. They need to hear you tell them that you love them and that they are incredible unique human beings with so much too offer and that an exciting life ahead awaits them irrespective of this exam”.
Firstly, if your child’s results were not as high as their normal grades, consider the option of looking over their exam papers to check whether they were marked fairly. It costs €40 per recheck, but you will be reimbursed if it is found that the exam was incorrectly graded. Your child’s school can give you more information about that process.
“But I don’t want to do that course anymore!”
Every year countless students change their mind on CAO choices after the official deadline and are subsequently offered a course they no longer want. The good news is that these students could still be offered a course higher up on their list in later rounds; it all depends on the demand and availability of course places on any given year.
If the course your child is offered is not in their preferred college but is in the general area of studies they were considering (e.g. Business Studies in DIT instead of BESS in Trinity) they should still consider accepting the offer. They may find that they are offered a place in their higher preference course in later offer rounds. However, if they do not accept any initial offer, they risk being left with nothing at the end of it all.
There are lots of additional, roundabout ways for students to still find their way to the course of their dreams, it just might not be along the route they had expected.
For those students who didn’t get sufficient points, or don’t feel ready to commit to a full undergrad degree, a PLC course could be the right option. These Post Leaving Cert courses can be attended at local Colleges of Further Education throughout the country, and they provide key training in a huge range of areas; from computer studies and accountancy to interior design and cooking.
Completing a PLC course gives the individual a nationally-recognised Level 5 or 6 NFQ qualifications, which can act as a stepping stone to study at Level 7 and 8 in a college down the line via an access programme.
Another option which some students could consider is completing a degree in Europe. Many top third level institutions’ fees match those in Ireland (or are even lower), and they provide a brilliant opportunity for those who can afford it. There are also European study grants which students can apply for.
There's no 'one size fits all'
It’s really important to discuss whether third level education is actually the right option for your son or daughter; this is not a 'one size fits all' option. For some, the better option may be diving straight into working life; maybe via an internship or an apprenticeship.
Taking a year out
Finally, sometimes the best option for an unsure, worried student may be to take a year out. Some students know that they would like to go on to third level education, but don’t feel ready for college life just yet. These individuals could take a year out to work; volunteer; travel and use the time to really figure out what direction they want their life to go in.
Help them to see the bigger picture
Above all, young people need hope, and they need your support. Getting leaving cert results and trying to figure out what to do from there is an undeniably stressful situation for young minds today, so they need your help to see the bigger picture and retain perspective.
Tell them stories of your own crisscrossing life journey; use examples of people you know who overcame unexpected hurdles and transitions. Make sure that they know they have your support, and that so long as they stay true to themselves they can’t make a “wrong” decision.
Jenny Blayney will be working on the National Parents’ Council helpline - which you can free phone here. This helpline is manned by qualified, registered guidance counsellors who can provide support and advice to parents and students alike at this time.