WITH the CAO offers released, it is decision time for the Leaving Certificate students of 2020.
Speaking to, guidance counsellor at Edmund Rice College, Carrigaline, Mariel Twomey, who is also chairperson of the Cork branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, offered some advice to those who didn’t get their first choice option or who are considering a year out.
For those who have applied to study a frontline medical profession such as a doctor or a nurse, Ms Twomey said that these types of jobs are most commonly considered to be a vocation and not something that fluctuates with employment trends.
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“It’s because you want to do it. Students who would consider those professions understand that they would always face difficulties. Aside from the pandemic, they would have day to day challenges.
“I think if that is where your heart is at and that is what you were thinking, I don’t think the pandemic would affect that or should
impact on that, hopefully, this pandemic will settle, it will not be here forever — fingers crossed.”
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In terms of a plan B or plan C, the guidance counsellor said post Leaving Certificate courses (PLC) with a progression link to your area of interest are worth considering.
“One thing to consider is PLC courses that have progression links or some students will look at their grades and opt to sit the Leaving Certificate in November, to sit certain exams or all of them. This year where they are allowed to combine re-sit grades with predictive grades, just for this year, because the Leaving Cert was cancelled and because of the pandemic.”
Looking at taking a year out, Ms Twomey said the fact that travel is very much restricted is a factor to consider.
“If it was a student coming to me this year, what I would be telling them to do is rather than moving away from academia entirely, apply to PLC courses, in the area that you are generally interested in. This will allow you to progress into university the following year.
“If for example, you were interested in PE teaching and you missed out on the points, you could go to Stiofáin Naofa and do their sports coaching course, you would then be eligible for the Cork progression scheme to reapply to UCC.
“You could also sit your Leaving Cert in November and use the points to get into the course as well, so the PLC route is not to be overlooked this year, I think there is merit in keeping yourself in education, keeping yourself motivated, but allowing yourself some flexibility.”
Ms Twomey said that the cost for a PLC course is quite minimal.
“It’s €50 to secure your place, and you pay for exams, which are relatively low cost and it’s possible to work alongside the course, a part-time job, similar to college.”
She highlighted that as a lot of the course work this year will be remote and online, there is increased flexibility to work around your academic schedule.
Despite encouraging an academic path, Ms Twomey said she understood that for some people, a year away from education could be the right option.
“Every year there are a number of students who want to take a year out, they might think they are too young to make a decision, or they have no idea what they want to do and they want life experience or need a break from academics, and for those
students that is the right choice, but it should not be based on whether or not they have gotten the right points.”
Discussing the concerns and worries that some students may have about starting college in the Covid-era, she said it is a difficult time for everyone.
“For the class of 2020 there are certain things they have missed out on, they didn’t sit a Leaving Certificate in the
traditional sense, they have had to experience the end of their education in lockdown, with no graduation ceremony as expected, instead it was likely to have been done virtually.
“But life is very different for all of us now, we are getting used to the new normal, what’s acceptable and only spending a certain amount of time in a certain place.
I know the colleges are working really hard to ensure that the college experience while changed is still a positive one.”
Ms Twomey reminded students that remote working was not a new phenomenon, highlighting the fact that most have been studying online since March.
“Students have been adapting since last March and they are being really resilient and they deserve a lot of credit for what they have done already. I know it is hard, but the colleges are working with the students and they do have support and they are hoping while it will be different and maybe virtual, but there will be stuff there for them.”
Taking a pragmatic approach to the situation, Ms Twomey said: “There are two ways of looking at it, we either stop everything, or we try and adapt and keep going and I think the adapt and keep going approach will be the better option.”
She highlighted the benefits that will come from students adapting to this new way of life.
“I think they will learn a load of life skills that will stand to them later on in employment and employers will be looking at this group of students as the ones who did adapt and were diverse in their responses, and that will be
positive in years to come.”
For those who may be finding it tough to decide their next steps, Ms Twomey offered the number of the Leaving Certificate Helpline, run by The National Parents Council Post Primary.
“It is staffed by qualified guidance counsellors and they will provide one to one advice all this week. Last year they received 1,236 calls with 2,288 queries and an average of 247 calls per day. We expect this to increase this year, there will be more questions, people are going to want that support.”
- The helpline number is 1800 265 165