Keep Calm and Talk to A Guidance Counsellor

Image of personRory White is a Guidance Counsellor in our Stranorlar school, Finn Valley College. Leaving Certificate, Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and LCVP results were released last Friday: in this blog he provides some advice for students.  

The long wait is over for the Class of 2021. Last Friday, 3 September, was Leaving Certificate Results Day and students all across Donegal and beyond logged on to the student portal from 10.00am to see how they fared.  This year, students received a set of Leaving Certificate results comprised of the best combination of grades from any exams they sat in June and from accredited grades that were based on their teachers’ estimated marks. One thing that never changes is the fact that between results day and CAO Round 1 offers day today, Tuesday 7 September, there will be some students delighted, many others satisfied and, unfortunately, some will be disappointed.  Your school Guidance Counsellors are always on hand to offer any support and advice needed.

The important thing to remember is that your Leaving Certificate results will not define you, they are not the be all and end all. If things seem like they are not working out as you may have hoped, try not to panic as there are always other options. Colleges want to fill all the places on their courses. There will be students who do not accept places for a variety of reasons. These places will then be offered in rounds 2, 3, 4 … until they are all filled. Therefore, if you just missed out on your preferred course in Round 1, you may well get offered it in a later round.

There may also be options in Available Places, which is where colleges put all the vacant places of their courses yet to be filled. Sometimes these can be new courses that colleges added late to the CAO system.  There may be a Level 6 or Level 7 course which could lead onto a Level 8 that you missed out on, or you may be lucky and come across something very suited to you that you hadn’t previously considered. For those students who have applied to UCAS, the situation is essentially the same, with their equivalent called Clearing.

Away from the CAO and UCAS systems, there are also many Further Education and Training (FET) options that offer exciting opportunities. There are many Post Leaving Certificate courses (PLC), Apprenticeships and Traineeships across an ever-increasing range of study areas. There are many benefits to studying a PLC course such as the work experience element included in all courses and the excellent progression pathways onto Higher Education. PLC courses can also provide the qualifications required to go directly into the world of work in areas such as Childcare, Health, Animal Care and Leisure.  Recent PLC graduates of Donegal ETB have been successful in securing employment as SNAs, Lifeguards, Care workers and other areas.

Apprenticeships and Traineeships are terrific earn-as-you-learn options.  The traditional craft apprenticeships have been added to greatly in recent years with offerings now available in areas as diverse as Insurance, Cybersecurity, Accounting and Telecommunications. These courses are generally developed according to industry needs and as a result offer excellent employment prospects.

Remember, the Leaving Certificate does not define you. It is how you apply yourself afterwards that will dictate how successful and fulfilled you become. There will be those who excel in the Leaving Cert that may struggle in college. On the other hand, there will be others who may have been disappointed with their results who will refocus themselves, get back on track and simply take a different route in order to achieve their goal.

I will finish off with a nice example. I recently had a lovely conversation with a former student who, by his own admission, did not do that well in his Leaving Cert. He didn’t particularly enjoy any of his subjects and the Leaving Certificate format just didn’t suit him. However, he was determined that it would not be the end of his dream of becoming a PE teacher. He applied for a one-year Sports PLC course with Donegal ETB’s FET Service and quickly found he had a new energy for learning, as he was now studying something he loved. His PLC course then got him into a Sports Degree in LYIT, where he graduated with a Level 8 degree. From there he progressed on to the University of Limerick where he has recently graduated with a Professional Masters in Education. He is now a fully qualified PE Teacher about to embark on his teaching career. Perseverance, hard work and doing something that you enjoy will pay off in the end.  Where there is a will, there’s a way!